Nepal Maoists refuse to join new government over power-sharing row

February 10th, 2011 - 3:20 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Feb 10 (IANS) The long political crisis that had dogged Nepal for seven months intensified Thursday with a power-sharing row making the Maoists refuse to join the government of new Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, just a week after they had helped the communist leader come to power.”The prime minister’s party failed to clarify whether it will follow the spirit and intent of the pact he signed with us,” Maoist deputy chief Narayan Kaji Shrestha Prakash told journalists Thursday after power-sharing talks between Khanal and Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda broke down yet again.

“They also refused to follow the agreement on the allocation of ministries, making us deeply apprehensive. In this situation, the party has decided not to join the new government,” Shrestha said.

However, Maoists will continue to support the new government from outside, he added.

The Maoist MP flayed “foreign forces” for the debacle. Though he did not name any country, the former rebels, since the fall of their government in 2009, have been blaming India.

They accuse New Delhi of preventing Prachanda’s victory in 16 rounds of fruitless prime ministerial election. On Feb 3, when the nascent republic held the 17th round of vote, Prachanda said he was withdrawing his candidacy and backing Khanal to show India its interference in Nepal’s internal matters would not be brooked.

But winning the election proved a costly victory for Khanal after the secret deal he had made with the Maoists to win their support became known.

Khanal’s own party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), criticised it and demanded its terms be revised.

The two most contentious clauses are the agreement to form a new security force for the Maoists’ nearly 20,000-member strong guerrilla army, and to have the government led by both parties by turns.

As the price for supporting Khanal, the Maoists had also been demanding key ministries, including home affairs.

But Khanal’s party opposed the demand and the continued row prevented the beleaguered PM from swearing in his cabinet even six days after being elected.

The row affected the functioning of parliament and the key task of writing the new constitution.

Parliament has not been able to sit due to the absence of the cabinet and the constitutional committee, that is drafting the new statute, said over 80 disputed issues have not been resolved as the top leaders remained absorbed in power deals.

Defying the new development, Khanal will go ahead and name his cabinet, his party sources said.

A mini cabinet with three ministers from his own party will be sworn in. The three earmarked ministers include two leaders who were defeated in the 2008 elections: Bharat Mohan Adhikary and Ganga Lal Tuladhar.

While Adhikary, a former finance minister, is expected to get the same ministry, Tuladhar is likely to be education and sports minister.

The disputed home ministry is expected to go to Bishnu Poudel, former energy minister whose tenure saw Nepal suffer 18 hours’ power outages daily.

The Maoist enmity leaves little doubt that Khanal will fail to promulgate a new constitution by May 28.

He has already antagonised his former ally, the centrist Nepali Congress, by deserting it during the election.

With the Maoists and Nepali Congress being the two largest parties in parliament, Khanal’s minority government will find it tough, if not downright impossible, to have the constitution and state policies passed by parliament since that requires two-third majority.

The first acid test is Feb 15, by which the new PM will have to get the budget endorsed by parliament or face a finance crisis.

His preceding government had enforced the budget through an ordinance after facing Maoist opposition and now, the new government has to get it endorsed by legislators by Feb 15, failing which all state funds and financial activities will be frozen.

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

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