President Ram Baran Yadav on Sunday once again asked the political parties to forge consensus to end the current political and constitutional crisis. An official at the President’s office said the latter invited representatives of the parties in the dissolved Constituent Assembly (CA) to Shital Niwas to help forge such a consensus. The call from the president comes at a time when the country’s major political parties are engaged in a bitter blame game, accusing each other for the failure of the CA. “I urge you all to show highest level of wisdom and consensus, and remind you that there is no alternative to showing goodwill and forging consensus,” the president was quoted as saying in his meeting with the party leaders.
The message has received a wide coverage in the media, but it does not seem to have gone down well with the person on whom the responsibility lies. The caretaker prime minister, Baburam Bhattarai, left for Brazilian capital Rio de Janeiro to attend the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20, on Monday, notwithstanding a grave situation back home. The opposition parties termed the timing of his visit ‘inopportune’, while students took out a torch rally Sunday night and protested at the airport before he boarded the flight. But Bhattarai was undeterred. Instead, he issued a statement arguing his visit to the Rio+20 Conference as a head of the government was indispensable. In his statement, Bhattarai hints that the conference was an excellent opportunity to appraise the world about the problems faced by a mountainous country. But he does not seem to have realized that the current problem is not about saving the environment, but about taking the country out of the current political crisis.
The prime minister’s position is no doubt the highest office any politician aspires to. It is thus natural for Bhattarai to try to stick around. As one of the architects of the Maoists’ “People’s War”, Bhattarai has managed to create a sizable space in Nepali politics in the last 16 years. When his warring Maoists ultimately signed the 12-point agreement and joined hands with other democratic and republican forces to overthrow monarchy, the general public heaved a sigh of relief. They not only welcomed the move and later voted the Maoists as the largest party in the CA, many believed Bhattarai would be different from the leaders of the traditional parties and might actually make a meaningful difference in Nepali polity. But as time passed, and with the dissolution of the CA on May 27, people are now raising serious doubts over his intentions. His recent activities have proved he is no different from any other leader. His lust for power and his failure to rise above petty interests threatens to jeopardize the positive political developments of the last six years.
For their part, though Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have knocked on the president’s doors to ‘do something’, it would be unfortunate if the latter takes any step against the spirit of the Interim Constitution. Instead, the opposition parties should find a solution that would force Bhattarai to step down and start afresh to form a national consensus government. The president is right that there is no alternative to forging a consensus, but he should also keep in mind that the responsibility to do so lies with the parties having a popular mandate; and not with him