A week after getting elected as Prime Minister, Dr Baburam Bhattarai expanded his cabinet on Sunday evening with representatives from both the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and key coalition ally, the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) which includes five Madhesi parties.

The PM appointed Maoist vice chairman, Narayan Kaji Shrestha ‘Prakash’ as the deputy prime minister and foreign minister. Barshaman Pun ‘Ananta’, an influential young leader and close aide of the party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, is the new finance minister. Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Democratic) leader Sharad Singh Bhandari will take charge of the defence ministry, while Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Republican) chairman J P Gupta is the new information and communication minister. MJF (D) chairman, Bijay Kumar Gachhedar, had been appointed deputy prime minister and home minister last week.

While 13 ministers took their oath of office and secrecy on Sunday, the full cabinet is yet to take shape. In the past week, there was a battle within the Maoists as well as the Madhesi Front about possible ministerial nominees. The Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’ faction within the Maoists also refused to join the government since they disagreed with the PM’s decision to handover the keys of arms containers and give ‘practical’ control of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to the all party special committee. The Maoists have now called a central committee meeting to resolve the issue.

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