Nepal president wants new government by Sunday

August 15th, 2011 - 5:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 15 (IANS) Nepal President Ram Baran Yadav Monday gave the warring parties time till next Sunday to form a national government after Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal tendered his resignation in a dramatic movement Sunday night, plunging the nation into a dire constitutional crisis.

The president’s announcement created a sense of dej√† vu as the nascent republic had gone through the same route twice earlier, each time failing to come up with a government that was acceptable to all the major parties.

The two largest parties have already begun a three-corner race to name Khanal’s successor.

The Maoists, once former guerrillas who won the election in 2008 and led the government for a brief while, are now staking their claim once more.

Maoist deputy chief and former finance minister Baburam Bhattarai’s name has emerged as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

However, the former guerrillas themselves are divided on the nomination with Maoist supremo and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda in the past throwing his weight behind other rival parties to thwart Bhattarai.

The Nepali Congress, the second largest party in parliament after the Maoists, also said they would seek to form the new government.

Unlike the Maoists and exiting Prime Minister Khanal’s Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist, the Nepali Congress has not led any of the three governments that ruled Nepal since the election three years ago and its chief Sushil Koirala said his party should be now allowed to form the new government since the other two failed.

However, infighting erupted in the Nepali Congress with former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba now seeking to replace the chief of the party in parliament, Ram Chandra Poudel, and have a go at forming the next government under his leadership.

The squabbling revived past memories when the parties fought 16 rounds of election for seven months to elect a new prime minister before Khanal finally pipped his rivals by forging a secret pact with the Maoists.

If the warring rivals fail to patch up and form a national government by Sunday, the president will then have to set a new deadline for the formation of a majority government.

Majority governments have shown to have little staying power since the 2008 elections and opportunistic alliances collapsed under pressure, like Khanal’s six-month-old coalition that was dubbed the Maoists’ puppet government.

The protracted instability has crippled the task of concluding the peace process that saw an end to the Maoist insurgency in 2006 but since then has failed to get the former guerrillas to disband their underground army or draft a people’s constitution.

On Aug 31, the deadline for promulgating the new constitution ends. The parties failed to execute the task even after extending the deadline twice.

It is now certain that they will miss it again and try to extend the time a third time, going against the Supreme Court that this year warned the government that it cannot keep on prolonging the deadline endlessly.

The turbulence in Nepal remains a matter of grave concern for India that has reiterated that it wants peace and stability in its northern neighbour.

The 65th Indian Independence Day celebrations at the Indian embassy in Kathmandu Monday were a low-key affair with the new ambassador, Jayant Prasad, yet to assume his post.

A Nepali organisation, that is seeking the restoration of Nepali land that was ceded during the rule of the British East India Company in India, chose Monday to resume its campaign while in southern Nepal, there were fresh calls for scrapping an Indo-Nepal pact to build a high dam on the Sapta Kosi river.

Many India-aided projects in Nepal are moving at snail’s pace due to lack of response by Nepal while a 200-bed emergency and trauma centre built by India in 2008 at a cost of NRS 149 crore is still lying unused with Nepal’s government failing to formulate a plan to get it started.

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

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