Out of power, Nepal Maoists to wage new war in parliament

May 5th, 2009 - 1:48 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 5 (IANS) Losing the battle against the army chief and compelled to quit after being deserted by its allies, Nepal’s Maoist party Tuesday said it would now take the fight to the floor of the interim parliament, in a retaliatory move that is bound to deal another blow to the wilting peace process.

“We have decided not to allow the interim parliament to conduct regular proceedings till army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal is sacked and the unconstitutional step taken by the President, Dr Ram Baran Yadav, is rectified by the new government,” Maoist spokesperson and lawmaker Dinanath Sharma said after the parliamentary wing of the party called a council of war Tuesday to discuss its new strategy.

“We will keep up pressure through the house and the street,” Sharma said.

The Maoists will also boycott the afternoon meeting of all 25 parliamentary parties called by former ally, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), in an attempt to come up with an alternative government, the lawmaker added.

The new strategy will hit the opposition Nepali Congress party’s hope of cobbling a new ruling alliance with the UML and other parties. The new government would find it difficult to move ahead with its task of drafting a new constitution by next year if the Maoists, the largest party in the house, remain at loggerheads.

Nepal’s first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who had led a 10-year guerrilla war to turn the Hindu kingdom of Nepal into a secular republic, was forced to resign Monday, after only eight months in power, due to a growing row over the sacking of the army chief Katawal.

While the hardliners in the Maoist party were determined to fire the controversial army chief on the ground that he had repeatedly flouted the orders of the elected government, growing international pressure made its two coalition partners pull out of the government Sunday, reducing it to a minority.

The Maoists were dealt a second blow when the president stepped into the row and reinstated Katawal.

Now, the former guerrillas, though out of power, could have the last laugh with the opposition parties struggling to assume the reins of power.

A legal battle has already begun with a rights organisation, Inhured International, moving court Monday, challenging the president’s move to reinstate Katawal.

The nearly two-month row has tarnished the image of Nepal’s first president, depicting him as partisan and trying to overstep his authority.

Nepal’s biggest daily Kantipur Tuesday pointed out that nearly eight years ago, then prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala - who is now the opposition leader - tried to sack then army chief, Prajjal Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, after the army refused to take up arms against the Maoists, who were then an underground party branded as terrorists.

“However, due to pressure from the palace, it was Koirala himself who had to quit,” the daily said in a front-page editorial. “Eight years later, when Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal tried to sack army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal, he faced similar intervention from the president.”

Even though Nepal was a republic now with sovereignty lying in the people, the elected government still lay under the shadow of the army and the head of state, which would trigger a “serious crisis”, the daily said.

For now, the cornered Maoists have been able to turn their defeat into partial victory.

Prachanda’s readiness to quit after his partners left spruced up the Maoist halo that had become tarnished during their short tenure due to the inability to end impunity, continuous crisis in the southern plains and a crippling power shortage.

“(By resigning) Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal not only scored a moral victory but also sent across a message about the democratic credentials of the party,” the Republica daily said.

“Henceforth, the suspicions about the Maoists’ democratic commitments should narrow down.”

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