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Maoists give Nepal government 72 hours to quit

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Nepal’s former guerrilla party, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Monday warned that if new Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal did not dissolve his coalition government within 72 hours and make way for a Maoist-led national government, it would start a new protest movement both from the street and parliament.

“The current government is unconstitutional and illegal,” said Maoist leader and former finance minister Baburam Bhattarai, who along with two more senior party leaders will head the new movement against the current government.

“This government was formed under the shadow of the military after the president (Ram Baran Yadav) took the unconstitutional step of reinstating the chief of the army (who was sacked by the earlier Maoist government),” Bhattarai told IANS.

“We gave the Nepal government a month’s time to establish civil supremacy over the military. If our demand is not met within that, we will start a new opposition movement.”

The deadline ends Wednesday.

Bhattarai, whose party became Nepal’s biggest party after it ended its armed insurrection and took part in a historic election last year, spelled out what the Maoists meant by the restoration of civil supremacy.

“It means the current unconstitutional government has to be dissolved at the earliest and a national government formed under the Maoists,” Bhattarai said.

The three-member committee formed to lead the struggle movement that will start if the government fails to heed the demand by Wednesday began chalking out protests that include public rallies and shutdowns.

The Maoists are also gearing up to lay siege to parliament once again.

This year, they had brought the house to a grinding halt for nearly two months over the same issue.

“We allowed the house to resume so that the budget could be passed,” Bhattarai said. “This government has no right to stay in power.”

Prime Minister Nepal, already grappling with a virulent diarrhoea epidemic in the west, which has killed over 200 people and affected more than 50,000 people, is ill-equipped to face a renewed Maoist attack.

His less than three months old government is already reeling under a garbage disposal crisis, the spectre of drought due to a late and weak monsoon, and disruptive protests by various groups ranging from ethnic communities to underpaid teachers.

The fresh Maoist threat comes ahead of Nepal’s official visit to India scheduled from Aug 18.

If the former rebels put their threat into action, both Nepal’s India visit as well as the long-term goal of drafting a new constitution by May 2010 are likely to come unstuck.