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Former Political Prisoner Becomes Nepalese Prime Minister

April 19, 1990 GMT

KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, a leader of the pro-democracy movement who spent 14 years in jail, on Thursday became prime minister of Nepal’s first independent government in almost three decades.

King Birendra administered Bhattarai’s oath of office at the royal palace, embarking on a new political course for the Himalayan monarchy where Birendra once wielded absolute power.

After the ceremony at Narayan-heti palace, Bhattarai drove to the government secretariat where he swore in nine ministers. His 10th minister missed the ceremony because of a flight delay, the prime minister said.


″The responsibility weighs very heavy on my shoulders,″ Bhattarai said after the swearing-in ceremony, which was attended by government officials and hundreds of supporters.

Bhattarai, president of the Nepali Congress party, now heads a coalition interim government composed of democrats, communists, royalists and independents.

Four ministers, including Bhattarai, belong to the Nepali Congress. Three are members of the seven-party United Left Front; two are Birendra’s nominees; and two are independents.

Bhattarai said his government would like to lessen the economical difficulties of the people and ″make life easier and less expensive than what it is today.″

Nepal has a per capital annual income of $150 and is one of the world’s poorest countries. Seventy-five percent of its 17 million people are illiterate.

The palace ceremony was closed to the public and press. Hundreds of people packed the secretariat conference hall, the size of a hockey field, where the ministers were sworn in.

The pro-democracy movement, led by Nepali Congress and the United Left Front, started Feb. 18 with a series of demonstrations and strikes in this remote mountain kingdom where political protest was forbidden.

On April 8, Birendra bowed to protesters’ demands and lifted a 29-year-old ban on political parties.

The surprising announcement followed an April 6 crackdown on demonstrators that witnesses called a massacre. Authorities said 10 people were killed and 107 injured that day throughout the country. Witnesses said 200 died in Katmandu alone when police fired on marchers.

On April 16, Birendra dissolved the non-partisan National Assembly and announced the resignation of the government, meeting major opposition demands.


The two Cabinet members nominated by Birendra are Achyut Raj Regmi, a minister in the former Cabinet and a former Nepali Congress member; and Keshar Jung Rayamajhi, a former Nepal Communist Party member.

The ministers’ oath called for allegiance to Nepal’s present constitution, which gives near-absolute powers to the king. But Bhattarai has said a new constitution will be drafted to reduce the king’s powers.

The new government has promised to hold multiparty elections within a year.

The Nepali Congress formed the country’s first democratically elected government in 1959. It lasted only 20 months before Birendra’s father, King Mahendra, dismissed it, accusing it of corruption and poor administration.

Mahendra introduced a new constitution and ruled the country through the National Assembly and the submissive government.

Bhattarai was the Parliament speaker in the 1959-60 government. He was jailed for nine years immediately after Mahendra dissolved that government and spent a total of five more years in jail at different times for political agitation.