Midnight deals—midnight miracles, if you like -- continue to surprise Nepalis. The top leaders of the major political parties were still squabbling and blaming each other till 10 p.m. Thursday, while most people in Nepal had gone to bed. Friday morning, they woke up to a pleasant surprise: the ministers had resigned en masse at midnight, paving the way for the formation of a national consensus government and the top leaders had struck a five-point deal, effectively sealing the fate of the new constitution. The deal, that promises agreement in the next three days on the remaining contentious issues of the constitution, promulgation of the new constitution before May 27 and general elections within a year, has provided real hope that the political transition will now definitely come to an end.
But even as the common people are impressed by the five-point deal and have expressed hope that the new constitution is within grasp, some lawmakers and leaders of the UML and Maoist parties have come out in opposition, mainly on technical grounds. The Baidya group in the Maoist party says that it´s ready to join hands with other parties to form a national consensus government but only after Prime Minster Baburam Bhattarai steps down.
The majority of UML central committee members, who spoke at the party´s central committee meeting held at party headquarters at Balkhu this afternnoon, also opposed the party joining the government since it was formed under the "four-point pact" signed between the Maoists and the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), a pact which the party had opposed vehemently. The Baidya group´s opposition is understandable as they are against the current political settlement, but the UML leaders´ position is perplexing, to say the least.
Agreed that Prime Minister Bhattarai´s government, even after all the major parties join it, will technically remain a majority government (as opposed to a consensus one) since the Bhattarai cabinet was constituted as per Article 38(2) of the constitution. But the question is whether it would have been wise to dissolve this cabinet, start afresh to form a consensus government under Article 38(1), and waste one precious week to have a new government in place. As we have already entered into a crunch time in constitution writing-- we are just three weeks away from the May 27 deadline-- spending a week on issues other than constitution writing would have been a reckless decision.
The UML leaders´ argument that the new government under Bhattarai´s leadership will again be based on the "four-point pact" is also ludicrous. The new government will be founded on the basis of the five-point deal signed by the top leaders, including UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal, last midnight and none of the parties in the new government will have to connive at the four-point pact. The parties should, therefore, stop wasting time and energy on insignificant technical issues and instead join the government and complete the negotiations on the remaining contentious issues of the new constitution within three days, as promised in the five-point deal. They can try meeting at least one deadline for a change