The mistrust between the ruling Maoist-Madhesi alliance and the opposition parties, chiefly NC and CPN-UML, seems to be growing by the day. Speaking on Saturday, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ruled out formation of new election government under Nepali Congress, as was agreed in the five-point agreement between the four major political forces on May 4. He emphasized that other provisions of the five-point agreement, including consensus on state restructuring, be first fulfilled before the resignation of the Bhattarai government. NC and UML have been adamant that nothing short of PM’s resignation would do to create an environment for such consensus.
The third point of the May 4, 2011 five-point agreement stipulated that following the promulgation of new constitution by May 27, 2012, an NC-led national consensus government would be formed which would hold general elections within one year of the constitution’s promulgation. As things turned out, there was no constitution by the scheduled date. Now the Maoists are insisting that in the changed context the old agreement has to be interpreted in a new light, in keeping with today’s vastly changed political reality.
We believe that the five-point agreement (or any other previous agreements) has to be interpreted in a way that facilitates breakthrough to the current political and constitutional impasse. But the Maoist initiative to form an alliance of pro-federalist forces with the intent “to expose those responsible for the demise of the CA” is clearly aimed at cornering NC and UML. PM Bhattarai seems to be in no mood to resign before there is consensus on important constitutional issues, chiefly state restructuring. With the festive season of Dashain and Tihar nearly at hand, Bhattarai seems to believe that he can comfortably weather the opposition storm, at least for the next couple of months. But we are afraid the longer the current stalemate drags on, the harder it will be to settle unresolved issues amicably, not the least because any such delay is sure to increase the already dangerous level of polarization in Nepali polity.
It will be in the country’s best interest for the parties to hammer out an agreement on consensus government that can set the date for new CA polls. PM Bhattarai seems to have miscalculated the infamy he is likely to earn in the days ahead if he continues to be perceived as the main stumbling block to consensus. It is understandable that Bhattarai, who came to power on the promise of timely peace and constitution and good governance, is reluctant to step down without any meaningful achievement in his year-long tenure.
But, as things stand, a breakthrough is also unlikely until he puts in his papers. Bhattarai would be justified in continuing in his post if he could, from his current position, somehow engineer broad consensus, again a must to resolve the current crisis. Absent this, as is clearly the case, he can have no justification for clinging on to his post. The sooner he goes, as we have been repeatedly emphasizing in this space, the less damage he will do his political image, which has already taken a battering during his one year at the head of the government