Cracks appear in key Madhesi party as dissidents switch sides to join Nepal PM Oli’s Cabinet

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Kathmandu, Jun 4 (PTI) A faction of the key Madhesi Janata Samajwadi Party has joined the Nepal Cabinet on Friday, a move which is likely to strengthen the minority government being led by beleaguered Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli.

Oli has also expanded his Cabinet with the inclusion of eight ministers and two ministers of state from the Madhes-based JSP, according to sources of the party.

A ceremony to administer the oath of office and secrecy to the newly-appointed ministers is expected to take place soon.

Rajendra Mahato has led the team with the portfolio of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Urban Development, according to JSP sources.

Other members of the Cabinet include Sharad Singh Bhandari, Laxman Lal Karna, Anil Kumar Jha, Chanda Chaudhary, Ekwal Miya, Bimal Shreevastav and Uma Shanker Argariya.

Similarly, Renuka Gurung and Chandra Kanta Chaudhary have been appointed ministers of state.

However, the Upendra Yadav-led faction of the JSP has joined the Opposition alliance led by the Nepali Congress and the CPN-Maoist Centre to protest against Prime Minister Oli's move to dissolve the House of Representatives for the second time and announce mid-term polls.

Madhesi parties in Nepal claim to be representing the cause of Madhesis, who are inhabitants of the Terai region. The community shares strong cultural and family bonds with India.

The Opposition parties have filed a petition against Oli's move to dissolve the House in the Supreme Court.

Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the 275-member House of Representatives on May 22 for the second time in five months and announced snap elections on November 12 and November 19 on the advice of Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, heading a minority government.

As many as 146 members of the dissolved House, including Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, who had staked a claim to form the new government under Article 76 (5) of the Constitution, have also filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking reinstatement of the House.

President Bhandari rejected the separate bids of both Prime Minister Oli and the Opposition alliance's claims to form a new government, saying the “claims were insufficient.” Earlier on December 20, the president dissolved Parliament and called snap polls on April 30 and May 10. However, two months later, Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana-led Constitutional Bench on February 23 overturned the decision and reinstated the House of Representatives.

Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20, last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

Oli's move to dissolve the House sparked protests from a large section of the NCP led by his rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda'. PTI SBP CPS AKJ CPS