President Ram Baran Yadav administered the oath of office and secrecy to newly elected Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, on Monday afternoon at Shital Niwas, the presidential house in the capital. The PM took the oath in the name of the ‘country and people’, and committed himself to working in accordance with the interim constitution.
In the same ceremony, Prime Minister Bhattarai swore in his deputy prime minister and home minister, Bijay Kumar Gachhedar. Mr. Gachhedar heads the Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Democratic), the biggest constituent of the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF). The Front’s support made the Maoist win possible in the Prime Ministerial polls on Sunday. The deputy Prime Minister told reporters that the rest of the Cabinet will be formed within the “next two to three days.”
Kathmandu’s diplomatic corps, including the new Indian ambassador Jayant Prasad, heads of government institutions, political parties, senior bureaucrats and civil society leaders were present at the function to congratulate the new Prime Minister.
In its first meeting, the two-member cabinet also decided to table a proposal to amend the constitution to extend the term of the Constituent Assembly by three months. The Constituent Assembly’s term ends on August 31. While the Maoist party’s standing committee had recommended a six month extension, the opposition Nepali Congress had asked for a three month extension. There was a possibility of a house session endorsing the government proposal late on Monday, enabling an extension till November 30.
On Saturday night, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh called and congratulated Mr. Bhattarai. Sources told The Hindu that Dr. Singh expressed the best wishes and support of the Government of India, and urged Mr. Bhattarai to ‘build political consensus and take the peace and constitutional process forward’. In a separate letter to Mr. Bhattarai, Dr. Singh wrote, “India remains committed to providing all assistance in building a more stable, democratic and prosperous Nepal, which will add to the security and prosperity of the region.” Dr. Singh also extended “a most cordial invitation” to Dr Bhattarai for visit India at his convenience.
Considered a moderate face in the Maoist party, 57-year-old India-educated Mr. Bhattarai, who has a doctorate from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, was elected yesterday when he got 340 votes in the Constituent Assembly. His Nepali Congress rival R.C. Poudyal secured 235 votes.