Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, bowing to exigencies of coalition politics, has expanded his less-than-three-week-old cabinet. Three new deputies and six ministers has taken the strength of his ministerial council to 27.
Oli, also chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxists-Leninists), appointed as deputy prime ministers his party colleague Bhim Rawal, Chitra Bahadur K.C. (Rastriya Janamorcha) and Maoist C.P. Mainali.
Thursday’s induction took to six the number of DyPMs Oli now has — three appointed to the post last month were Top Bahadur Rayamaji (UCPN-Maoist), Bijaya Kumar Gachhadhar of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik and Kamal Thapa of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal.
Oli also appointed six new ministers in his cabinet taking to 19 their number. Among the new inductees, four were picked from Oli’s CPN-UML while one each was from the UCPN-Maoist and the leftist Rastriya Janamorcha.
Oli’s ministerial council also has one minister of state in Meghraj Nepali Nishad of the Madhes Samata Party-Nepal.
At a time when Nepali people are reeling under acute shortages — of fuel, medicines and essential commodities, the cabinet expansion has whipped up critical reactions across the Himalayan nation.
Senior CPN-UML leader and former prime minister Jhalanath Khanal reacted strongly to Oli appointing as many as six deputy prime ministers.
“It is not a council of ministers but a council of deputy prime ministers,” he said.
The Nepali media also lambasted the decision at a time when people were standing in long queues for barely a litre of petrol.
The move has also been criticised on social media like Facebook and Twitter.
“Mr PM, are you preparing a volleyball team,” tweeted a Nepali man named Hari Dai.
Some of the new inductees were allotted portfolios as under:
Deputy PM Mainali has been given the women, children and social welfare portfolio, while Chitra Bahadur K.C. has been appointed minister for cooperatives and poverty alleviation. Bhim Bahadur Rawal has been appointed minister for urban development.
Among the new ministers, CPN-UML secretary Bishnu Poudel has been allotted finance while his party colleague Sherdhan Rai has been named information and communication minister. Ananda Pokhrel (also CPN-UML) has been appointed tourism and civil aviation minister.