By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Nepal’s new Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda named a minority leader to the key position of home minister in his first appointments on Thursday, seeking reconciliation after months of protests by southern plainsfolk over a new constitution.
The 61-year-old former rebel commander has vowed to tackle the grievances of the Madhesi minority that demands a greater say in central government by amending the constitution adopted last September.
The Madhesis, who have close cultural and family ties with neighboring India, have staged protests against the charter, saying it marginalized them by dividing their southern homeland into several states.
Violence, blamed by many Madhesis on the use of excessive police force, claimed more than 50 lives in the protests that petered out in February.
Prachanda appointed Bimalendra Nidhi of the centrist Nepali Congress, the biggest coalition party, as deputy prime minister in charge of the home ministry, officials said.
Among those appointed to the cabinet was Krishna Bahadur Mahara from Prachanda’s Maoist party, who will also be a deputy prime minister in charge of the finance ministry.
“Initially only a few people will represent in the cabinet, more will join later,” said Prakash Sharan Mahat, an official of the Nepali Congress.
Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, still uses his wartime pseudonym, which means “fierce”. He has promised to keep his cabinet small, after predecessor K.P. Oli was criticized for appointing a 32-member coalition with six deputy prime ministers.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Clarence Fernandez)