After roses, new Nepal PM faces thorns

September 4th, 2011 - 5:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Sep 4 (IANS) A week after coming into power on the crest of high hopes and best wishes from people at home and abroad, Nepal?s Maoist Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai now faces a thorny, uphill road with his own party blocking his bid to push the obstructed peace process forward.

The scholar from India?s prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, who unveiled an ambitious 45-day peace plan to rehabilitate his party?s guerrilla army with its nearly 20,000 combatants, is now facing stiff resistance from the hardliners in his own party.

Last week, Bhattarai had announced that the People?s Liberation Army (PLA), barracked in 28 cantonments across Nepal, would hand over the keys to the containers in which their weapons have been locked up since the Maoists signed a peace accord in 2006.

Though it was largely a symbolic gesture, it has still met with fierce resistance from the hardliners? faction within the party, who called it a ?suicidal bid?.

Mohan Baidya, one of the three deputy chiefs of the party who has been blowing hot and cold towards Bhattarai, heads the faction that is demanding that the gesture be revoked.

Baidya?s supporters have already staged public protests in the capital last week, forcing the party to resume fresh discussions among its leaders Sunday.

But the meeting failed to iron out wrinkles and now, the party has called a second round of talks on Sep 18.

The differences over the keys handover gave the largest opposition party, the Nepali Congress, a handle to raise fresh doubts about the new PM and his party?s commitment to peace.

Citing a feeling of insecurity, Nepali Congress chief Sushil Koirala demanded at a public programme in the capital Sunday that given the dissent within the Maoists, not just the keys but the entire PLA arsenal should be handed over to the government.

Koirala also said the Maoists should sever their links with international revolutionary groups, the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and the Coordination Committee of Maoist Parties and Organisations of South Asia, to show their commitment to the peace process.

The new PM also faces hurdles in the formation of his cabinet.

Due to bitter bargaining with his allies, a bloc of five Terai parties that helped him win the prime ministerial election, as well as differences within the Maoist factions, Bhattarai has not been able to expand his two-member cabinet.

While the allies Sunday said they had reached an understanding and the new ministers would be sworn in, there is fear that the new government is splitting up ministries to accommodate aspirants, creating an additional financial burden on the treasury.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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