Nepal parties reject Maoist terms for joining government

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Even three months after the election in Nepal the formation of a new government lay in limbo and the fragile peace process imperilled with the anti-Maoist coalition Saturday rejecting the former rebels’ terms for joining the government.

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The fierce race to lead the new government remained without a winner Saturday with caretaker Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s ruling Nepali Congress party holding a meeting of its top leaders to discuss the Maoists’ three preconditions for joining the government.

Smarting under the defeat of their presidential candidate a few days ago, the Maoists, who had emerged as the largest party after the April election and were expected to form the new government, however changed their mind.

Maoist chief Prachanda said the presidential defeat indicated his party no longer had the moral right to lead the government but would instead sit in opposition.

But soon after the decision, the former insurgents struck a conciliatory note, saying they would reconsider their stand if the anti-Maoist coalition that defeated them at the presidency poll was disbanded and the parties pledged not to topple their government before the new constitution was drafted.

“When the Maoists, as the largest party, should take all the other parties with them to form a consensus government, they are instead asking for the dissolution of an alliance,” Nepali Congress spokesman Arjun Narsingh K.C. said.

“It is dictatorial.”

The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF), the ethnic party from the Terai plains that was a partner in the anti-Maoist alliance, also Saturday ruled out ending the tie.

Now Koirala is rumoured to be sounding the waters to see if he can lead the government again. He met the Indian ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood Friday in what is analysed as a move to gauge New Delhi’s reaction.

Soon after its humiliating defeat in the April election, Koirala’s party had favoured staying out of a Maoist government and sitting in opposition.

Now, with the situation changing, NC Minister for Labour and Transport Management Ramesh Lekhak Saturday said his party was ready to join the government.

On the other hand, the NC’s major allies, the MJF as well as the Communist party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), are also said to be eyeing the executive post.

Newly elected President Ram Baran Yadav has begun meeting the political parties and legal experts to find a way out of the impasse.

While some leading constitutional lawyers are urging him to invite the Maoists to form the new government, others are proposing that it be put to vote at the constituent assembly that also serves as parliament.

The delay in forming the government will affect Nepal’s presence at the 15th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit that is kicking off in Colombo from July 28.

While caretaker premier Koirala is likely to attend the two-day meet of the heads of state on Aug 2-3, Nepal doesn’t have a foreign minister to take part in the preceding foreign ministers’ conference.

Nepal’s foreign minister Sahana Pradhan and her other cabinet colleagues from the UML resigned soon after the April poll debacle that saw their party reduced to a poor third.