Will 13 to prove lucky for Nepal Maoists?

July 10th, 2008 - 2:53 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 10 (IANS) After having waged a 10-year war to root out Nepal’s royal dynasty and emerging as victors in the battle of the ballot three months ago, the former Maoist guerrillas’ bid to capture power will now be determined by the number 13, usually considered unlucky. On July 13, Nepal’s caretaker parliament will decide if a constitution amendment bill pushed by the government after days of dispute will be cleared to pave the way for a Maoist-led government.

The tabling of the amendment was prevented for 12 days by three parties from the Terai plains, who together form the fourth largest bloc in the newly elected constituent assembly, with their demand for an autonomous Madhes state in the plains.

Though the three protesting parties - Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party and Sadbhavana Party - allowed Law Minister Narendra Bikram Nembang to table the amendment proposal Wednesday, they boycotted the session, warning that they would resume their stir.

With the threat hovering over Sunday’s session of the assembly, it remains to be seen if the amendment will come through. The amendment is needed to change the existing constitutional provision that a new government can be formed or toppled by two-third of lawmakers.

The Maoists, though emerging as the largest party in the 601-assembly, have not been able to muster the magic number. However, the amendment will pave the way for the formation of a government on the basis of simple majority.

It is also needed to elect Nepal’s first president, who will replace deposed king Gyanendra as head of state.

Since the king’s ouster in May, Nepal is without a head of state. Though Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala resigned last month, he has still been continuing as caretaker premier in the absence of a constitutional head to accept his resignation and the absence of a new government to step into his shoes.

Growing angrier by the day over the delay, the Maoists have been accusing India and the US of having a hand in the protests by the Madhes parties in a bid to stop them from coming to power.

The Terai parties’ demand for a Madhes state is being opposed by some of the ruling parties as well as other indigenous communities from the plains, who have warned of a counter-stir if it is conceded.

The Terai, once ignored by a succession of governments, became Nepal’s new Achilles’ heel since the fall of Gyanendra’s government in 2006.

Last year, turbulence in the Terai forced the critical election to be postponed once. Now fresh unrest in Nepal’s food bowl could affect the formation of the new government as well as the writing of a new constitution.

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