India worried as Nepal parties fail to cobble government

May 11th, 2008 - 2:21 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 11 (IANS) In a sign of growing concern at the failure of Nepal’s major parties to reach an understanding on power-sharing, India’s new Ambassador Rakesh Sood Sunday met top Maoist leaders - the fourth such meeting in less than three weeks. Sood held an hour-long consultation with Maoist chief Prachanda, who is staking his claim to the office of prime minister, at the latter’s residence here, Maoists said.

The meeting began at 7 a.m., marking the start of a series of parleys Prachanda and his deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, are holding with key political players in a bid to win support for a new government under their leadership.

Soon after consultations with the Indian envoy, the Maoist leadership held talks separately with two Terai parties that have emerged as a regional force after last month’s election.

Former minister Hridayesh Tripathi, whose debutant Terai Madhesh Loktantrik Party became the fifth largest party in the 601-member constituent assembly with 20 seats, and Upendra Yadav, chief of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum that shot to fourth place with 52 seats, can now make or mar the new government.

The Maoists, who won a stunning victory after a 10-year guerrilla war, however, have not been able to obtain simple majority, being confined to 220 seats.

To lead the new government, they need the support of the Terai groups and either the largest communist party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, that has 103 seats, or Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress, which won 110 seats.

However, despite his party’s shock defeat and most of his family members and ministers biting the dust in the April 10 election, Koirala is refusing to relinquish power.

The octogenarian premier, who had earlier said he would retire from politics after the twice-postponed polls were held, has neither resigned as leader of the party, nor is ready to quit as head of government.

Anger has begun mounting among the Maoists, who have started asking for Koirala’s resignation.

Time is running out for Nepal once again with the deadline for the crucial first meeting of the constituent assembly nearing fast. The constitution says the meet has to be held by May 29 while the ruling parties last week urged Koirala to hold it between May 25-28.

At a tea hosted by Koirala Saturday, Prachanda said that after the first constituent assembly meeting, the caretaker government of Koirala would be replaced by a Maoist-led government since in the election, people gave a “clear verdict” to his party to form the next government.

While Koirala refuses to step down, his own party members are advising him against joining the new government. The student wing of the party has begun a protest, demanding a convention where there can be a reshuffle in the leadership.

Neighbour India can have a key role during the negotiations.

The Koirala government, booted out by voters, has been thriving mostly on the support of the international community, especially India, the US and Britain.

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