Nepal's new prime minister hopes to do away with divisions in his country by appointing deputies intended to represent a unity government. Nepal is still reeling from two devastating earthquakes this year.
Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, known as KP Oli in Nepali politics, was sworn in as Nepal's new prime minister on Monday. Oli had been elected in a parliamentary vote on Sunday, with the backing of 14 of the 31 parties. He was sworn in by Nepali President Ram Baran Yadav.
"My request is that all the parties must work together and move forward in consensus," Oli had told lawmakers in an address to parliament before the vote.
Deputy Prime Ministers Kamal Thapa and Bijay Kumar Gachhadar were also sworn in along with five other ministers. Oli's choice of deputies was aimed at appeasing competing interests in Nepal's fractured politics.
Polar opposites as deputies
Deputy Prime Minister Thapa has long been regarded as a staunch royalist whose party wants Nepal to remain a Hindu state, despite a new secular constitution.
Supporters of his National Democratic Party-Nepal staged several protests before the new constitution was adopted last month and voted against it when parliament decided to approve the document.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Gachchedar, a leader of one of the parties from the ethnic Madhesi bloc in the country's southern region, signaled his hope of resolving the ongoing conflict on Nepal's border with India.
The southern belt of Nepal saw violent protests against the new charter for two months, resulting in at least 40 deaths. Soon after taking his oath, Gachchedar told reporters that he had joined the government to help resolve the protests in southern Nepal.
"The issues, differences and demands of the Madhesi and other groups will be resolved by adjusting the states through amendments in the constitution," Gachchedar said, adding that the government would get the support of all political parties to make the changes.
Establishing a new relationship with India
Reaching out to the Madhesi community might, however, not be easy. India has closed its border to trade with Nepal, citing security concerns, though critics have alleged that New Delhi was pressuring Nepal to amend the constitution in favor of the Madhesi, which share strong cultural ties with India. Nepal has been facing a severe fuel shortage because of the blockade.
Oli said he wanted to restore trade with India and tackle reconstruction work after two devastating earthquakes in the Himalayan nation in April and May, which killed almost 9,000 people.
Controversial new constitution
The new constitution divides Nepal into seven new states, with some borders slicing through the Madhesis' ancestral homeland in the southern plains. The Madhesis, along with several other small ethnic groups, wanted the states to be larger and to be given more autonomy over local matters.
ss/bk (AP, dpa)