Nepal Maoists not to form new government after poll fiasco (Lead)

July 22nd, 2008 - 9:35 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 22 (IANS) Nepal’s historic first presidential election has opened a pandora’s box with the defeated Maoist party Tuesday announcing they would not form the new government but sit in opposition. In yet another twist to the intense political drama, the debutant party from the Terai plains that emerged as a kingmaker, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), said they would stake claim to forming a coalition government backed by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML).

“Our presidential candidate was defeated,” Maoist chief Prachanda said at a press conference at the party’s parliamentary office Tuesday, called to announce its decision not to lead the new government.

“This situation and subsequent political developments have ended our party’s claim to form the new government. The presidential election result, ethically, puts us in the position of the opposition.”

Prachanda, who had announced his intention to become the new prime minister of Nepal after his party won an unexpected victory in the April election, said the Maoists would now sit in opposition in the house and support the activities of the government or oppose them on the basis of their principles.

A sombre-looking Prachanda rubbished the reports that his party had lost Monday’s cut-throat presidential election.

“Though the elected president Ram Baran Yadav was not our candidate, yet his victory signifies a victory for our principle that the head of state should be a Madhesi, someone from the Terai plains so that the election was inclusive.”

Prachanda flayed foreign intervention for the growing polarisation among the major parties, saying that it had increased substantially.

He also condemned the anti-Maoist alliance, calling it “unnatural, vengeful and unpolitical”.

The Maoist chief indicated that the tangle rising from the presidential election could affect the all-important task of drafting a new constitution within two years.

He also warned of a conspiracy to dismantle his party’s guerrilla army, the People’s Liberation Army, whose nearly 20,000 soldiers have been languishing in makeshift cantonments for over a year with no sign of their rehabilitation or promised integration with the state army.

“The government has stopped paying them the monthly NRS 3,000 it had promised to in an earlier agreement,” Prachanda said. “We are concerned that it is a conspiracy to dismiss them.”

The Maoist decision to sit in opposition was taken by the central secretariat of the party that called an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss the party’s future strategy in the wake of the presidential election debacle that saw its candidate, 73-year-old former revolutionary Ram Raja Prasad Singh, lose twice to his rival Ram Baran Yadav, who was supported by the NC and its new allies.

Now, in a surprise move, the MJF is laying claim to the post of prime minister.

“We have 52 members in the assembly, which proved to be a decisive number, as the presidential poll showed,” said Bijay Kumar Gachchedar, chief of the MJF’s parliamentary party.

“You don’t have to have majority to lead a coalition government. In India, H.D. Deve Gowda showed that.”

According to Gachchedar, his party reached an understanding with Koirala and the UML on the eve of the presidential poll. As per the pact, the trio decided to back Ram Baran Yadav as president, the UML candidate as chairman of the constituent assembly when the election is held Thursday, and the MJF nominee as prime minister.

Following the Maoist decision not to lay claim to the new government, the three new allies have begun consultations to reach an understanding in power-sharing.

If the alliance holds, Gachchhedar could be the new prime minister of Nepal, stepping into Koirala’s shoes.

Asked who would the MJF propose as the next premier, his answer was: “An indigenous community member.”

Gachchhedar comes from the Tharu community, who were the original inhabitants of the Terai plains but were displaced by migrants from India and Nepal’s hilly regions and reduced to landless bonded slaves.

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