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Prachanda takes over as PM
But fails to expand cabinet due to rift in alliance
Bishnu Budhathoki writes from Kathmandu

CPN-Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, who had waged bloody insurgency in the hinterlands of Himalayan nation for over a decade was sworn in as the Prime Minister on Monday. At around 3.45 pm at the Presidentís Residential Office (Rastrapati Bhawan) in Sital Niwas, the first President of the republic of Nepal Dr Ram Baran Yadav administered the oath of office and secrecy to the newly elected PM Prachanda amidst a function attended by dignitaries and high-profile personalities.

Discarding the long-held tradition of wearing Nepali dress (Daura-salwar,Nepali cap) Prachanda attended the ceremony in a western suit with white a shirt, tie, gray coat-pant and black cap (Bhadgaunle cap). He took the oath of office and secrecy in the name of the people.

Shortly after he took the oath of office, Prachanda assumed the office at Singha Durbar. Briefly talking to media, Prachanda said bringing the ongoing peace process to a logical end was the main priority of his government. Besides, the government would introduce immediate relief programme for the people and take initiative to maintain law and order situation across the country, he added.

Meanwhile, senior Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa, alias Badal, who also attended the ceremony said the new government led by Prachanda would make Nepal free from all external interventions.

He also opined that the main challenges before Prachanda were to forge unity among the republic, nationalist and leftist forces.

Prachanda was elected as the Prime Minister with an overwhelming majority in the constituent assembly on Friday.

However, Prachanda could not expand his cabinet and administer the oath of office to the ministers today when the three-party alliance - the Maoist, the CPN-UML and the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF) failed to settle down power-sharing deal and sign a common minimum programme of the new government. Badal said the concerned parties could not reach an understanding over the issues and they still had to complete internal procedures in this regard.

Breaking off the existing practice, the CPN-Maoist on Monday decided to deploy its People's Liberation Army (PLA) for the security of the newly elected Prime Minister.

The Maoist central committee meeting held at its parliamentary party office in Singha Durbar this afternoon reached at a decision to include their combatants along with the national army, armed police force and the Nepal police for the security arrangement of Prachanda.

"It is the responsibility of the PLA to provide security to Prachanda," Maoist leader Netra Bikram Chand told journalists after the meeting.

He also claimed that the PLA was the national army. On Saturday, the Home Ministry officials said the government would deploy 150-Nepal Army personnel under the command of Lieut-Colonel Arun Pal.

Coincidently, the newly elected Prime Minister, who had waged over decade-long people's war with the influence of Chinese leader Mao, was going to China for his first official visit.

According to Maoist leader Dinanath Sharma, Prachanda is leaving for China on Saturday to take part in the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

The Prime Minister was officially invited to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympics by the Chinese ambassador to Nepal Zheng Xiangling on Sunday. The closing ceremony of the Olympics is to be held on August 24.

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