Nepal government likely to fall

July 27th, 2011 - 2:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, July 27 (IANS) The five-month-old communist-led government of Nepal could fall again, causing another severe setback to the peace process and drafting of a new constitution in which New Delhi has a lot at stake.

Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal’s government, the fourth in three years, could collapse before a critical deadline in August with its allies turning against it and the opposition beginning a determined bid for his ouster.

Khanal, who became prime minister in February after pulling down his own party leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and signing a controversial pact with the former Maoist guerrillas to gain their support, is ready to resign before Aug 31, a minister from his own party said.

Ghanashyam Bhusal, minister without portfolio, told the media the Nepali PM was ready to quit since the peace process, which he had pledged to bring to fruition, had not progressed.

Resigning may be the only face-saving way left for the communist leader who has been ridiculed relentlessly by the media and opposition as a puppet in the hands of the Maoists, who are now the largest party in the ruling alliance.

From this week, Khanal began to face renewed opposition by the Nepali Congress, the largest opposition party, who have decided not to allow parliament to function till the PM quits.

The party has already obstructed the house twice this week and vowed to keep it up.

Khanal also faces hostility from the Maoists, whose support has kept him propped up.

Since Monday, the Maoists have been seeking to reshuffle the cabinet, replacing their party men with a new list of 24 ministers.

But the move was stalled after it met unexpected resistance from the PM as well as the Nepali Congress.

Now the thwarted former guerrillas are threatening to withdraw from the government if the reshuffle is not allowed.

Already caught between the opposition and allies, Khanal faces a third enemy as well - time.

His government will face dissolution at the end of August if it fails to unveil a new constitution.

Nepal has already missed two earlier deadlines by which it was to have promulgated the new statute and now the Supreme Court has discouraged the government from seeking yet another extension.

It is clear that Khanal would not be able to get the new constitution ready by next month, nor will he be able to discharge the Maoists’ guerrilla army, whose nearly 20,000 combatants remain a major concern.

The continued volatile climate in Nepal has hit India’s bilateral agreements with the neighbouring nation as well as Indian investment, which is now at an all-time low since the last five years.

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

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