Nepal faces crisis as Maoists decide to recall ministers

July 30th, 2011 - 5:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, July 30 (IANS) Nepal’s five-month-old government faces another acid test this weekend. Its biggest ally, the Maoists, announced withdrawal of their ministers Saturday and gave the beleaguered prime minister just a day to reshuffle the cabinet or face collapse.

“Our party has decided that all its ministers in the cabinet will resign today,” Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma said after the former guerrilla party’s standing committee held an emergency meeting Saturday to decide its new strategy.

“We are giving the prime minister 24 hours to reshuffle the cabinet by Sunday night and swear-in our new ministers,” the spokesman added. “If the swearing-in is not held by Sunday, our party will be forced to take strong action.”

Though Sharma did not spell out what the action would be, the former insurgents have been threatening to withdraw support to the government and reduce it to a minority in parliament.

The largest party in parliament, the Maoists have 12 ministers in the council of ministers though one of them refused to take oath of office.

Now, in a bid to paper over the growing feud within the party, Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda this month asked Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal to reshuffle the cabinet and induct 24 Maoist ministers.

But the proposal ran into unexpected storm with Khanal, known as the Maoists’ puppet premier, refusing to oblige, especially after the largest opposition party, the Nepali Congress, indicated it would not accept the reshuffle.

Since then, Khanal has been caught between his allies and the opposition with the latter beginning a blockade of parliament, demanding his resignation.

The new turmoil comes with just 31 days left for a new constitutional crisis to erupt.

The government has to promulgate a new constitution by Aug 31, a task that has already been delayed twice since 2010.

However, with the three major parties at loggerheads, the new statute is not likely to be ready within the deadline, which would mean the possible dissolution of the Khanal government.

Since 2008, Nepal has seen four governments in three years with none able to take the peace process to conclusion and persuade the Maoists to disband their guerrilla army of nearly 20,000 combatants.

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

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