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Are Oli’s fresh cabinet inductions part of a new election plan?

Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari

Ahead of general elections slated to be held in November, Nepal’s caretaker Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli made major changes in his Cabinet, inducting as many as 12 new faces, of whom 10 belong to the Terai-based Janata Samajbadi Party, which was formed after the merger of two key Madhesi parties– Samajwadi Party-Nepal and Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal.

Rajendra Mahato, Sarad Singh Bhandari, Uma Shankar Agargariya, Iqbal Miyan, Renuka Gurung, Laxman Lal Karn are among the 10 new ministers who have been brought into the new Cabinet.

Friday’s reshuffle comes at a time when Oli’s May 21 House dissolution move is being tested by the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court.

The number of ministers from the Tarai, that too from one party, is the highest so far, noted Yubaraj Ghimire, editor Of Deshsanchar.com.

While foreign policy watchers said that move could strengthen Oil’s minority government, Ghimire said that it may not solve the political demand of Tarai people in the long run.

Oli’s latest move come at a time when many in Nepal are of the view that despite recent difficulties, it is in Kathmandu’s interest to bond with India, despite a string of allurements by China to undermine India-Nepal ties.

Nepal and China relations that were booming just a year ago also seem to have run into “some uncertainty.”

An ANI report noted that “Beijing has turned the heat alongside the borders of its neighbouring country Nepal with border pillars vanishing in the Daulkha district of the Himalayan nation.” The report added that this appears to be “yet another example of growing Chinese belligerence and a complete disregard to the international border by Beijing.”

Nevertheless, on the domestic front Ghimire told IndiaNarrative.com that Oli’s move is an act of “appeasement of a small group of leaders”.

Also read: Nepal's Chief Justice forms Constitutional Bench for hearing of petitions against Oli's move

Mahaoto has been appointed deputy PM. He will also handle urban development.

With the new induction, Oli will be aided by three Deputy PMs — Bishnu Poudel and Raghubir Mahaseth from the Oli-led Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) besides Mahaoto.

All the new ministers have been administered oath of office at a special function on Friday at President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s residence.

Among others, Ishwar Pokhrel, who was deputy PM  and Pradeep Gyawali who was handling Foreign Affairs were dropped by Oli.

“Oli and JSP, arch rival and mutual haters, recently came to a deal that the government would amend citizenship law, mainly to facilitate early citizenship acquired by foreigners (Indians included) married to Nepali ‘men’ and to the children whose one of the parents—mother or father—were citizens of Nepal by birth,” Ghimire said.

Just last month, Oli dissolved the House of Representatives. Following Oli’s move, Bhandari announced mid-term general elections in the country, which is currently in the grip of a severe Covid 19 wave, for November 12 and 19.

Meanwhile India has termed the developments in Nepal as its internal matter.

"We have taken note of the recent political developments in Nepal. We view these as internal matters of Nepal to be dealt with by them under their own domestic framework and democratic processes,” the ministry of external affairs said.

Also read: India says Nepal's developments are internal matter

It further added that “as a neighbour and friend, India remains unwavering in its support for Nepal and its people on their journey toward progress, peace, stability and development.”