Indian envoy meets outgoing Nepal PM as crisis deepens

July 25th, 2008 - 2:00 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 25 (IANS) As the political crisis in Nepal deepened with no sign of a new government, India’s ambassador Rakesh Sood Friday met outgoing Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala. The visit comes close on the heels of allegations by political parties that India tried to influence the Himalayan republic’s first presidential election. Sood held consultations with Koirala, who tendered his resignation to newly elected President Ram Baran Yadav Wednesday and was asked to continue as the caretaker prime minister till a new government was formed.

Koirala Friday began meeting leaders of the other Terai parties in what is being regarded as the prelude to his party trying to cobble a coalition government.

Sood’s tete-a-tete with the Nepali prime minister at this time is likely to stoke fresh controversy.

The Indian government supported the Koirala government in the April election and, according to many, subsequently tried to pressure the other parties into accepting Koirala as the first president.

However, after the unexpected success of the Maoists in the April election, New Delhi now says the Maoists, as the largest party, have the people’s mandate to form the new government.

Sood’s meeting also comes at a time when Nepalis have been protesting against their first vice-president Parmanand Jha, who is of Indian origin, taking his oath of office and secrecy in Hindi instead of either Nepali or Maithili, his mother tongue.

The fresh impasse in Nepal comes as the Maoists, who had emerged as the largest party in the April election, suffered a humiliating defeat in the presidential election this week and said they would not head the new government but sit in opposition.

But in 24 hours, the former guerrillas had thawed and laid down conditions for joining the government.

According to Maoist chief Prachanda, his party would lead the new government provided the three other major parties, which together defeated the Maoist presidential candidate, dissolved their “unholy” and “vengeful” alliance.

The Maoists also want their avowed goals to be included in the common minimum programme drafted by the 25 parties in the caretaker parliament.

But, perhaps most importantly, they are demanding a written commitment from the other parties that the latter would not seek to topple a Maoist government till the new constitution is drafted, a task that is scheduled to be completed in two years but may take longer given Nepal’s growing crisis.

The other parties may not agree to the Maoist demands without a struggle.

There are reports that 83-year-old Koirala, who could not become Nepal’s first president due to stiff resistance by the Maoists, is considering leading a coalition government yet again.

His main ally, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), is divided on the issue. While UML chief Jhalanath Khanal says the Maoists should be allowed to form the new government, other party leaders, like former deputy prime minister K.P. Oli, are saying that the communist party should field the next prime minister.

Yet another party, the ethnic Madhesi Janadhikar Forum that has emerged as the new kingmaker in Nepal’s politics, is also staking claim to the premiership. It says both Koirala and the UML had agreed to support its prime ministerial candidate in exchange for its backing in the presidential poll.

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