With the President’s ultimatum of a week to come up with a consensus PM candidate ending today, major party leaders are engaged in hectic parleys. While the ruling UCPN (Maoist) has insisted on converting Baburam Bhattarai government into a consensus government, the opposition led by Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have ruled out the possibility. Two days before deadline, UCPN (Maoist) said that the candidate would have to be someone from within the party (if not Bhattarai himself) or as a last resort, someone from the ruling Federal Democratic Republican Alliance. On the other hand, NC president Sushil Koirala has also stepped up efforts to garner support to lead a consensus government himself. With NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba deciding to give up his claim, Koirala has emerged as a strong PM candidate, given that CPN-UML has already expressed its support for any NC candidate. But with UCPN (Maoist) not willing to accept NC leadership, consensus government remains a pipedream.
We have consistently maintained that the Bhattarai-led government has lost its legitimacy after failing to hold the Nov 22 polls, which it scheduled itself. This is the reason the question of turning the present government into a consensus one is problematic. The current Maoist-Madhesi ruling coalition must be broken before meaningful negotiations on consensus government can start. Any negotiations, however, should be open to all parties, including the ones in the current government. With UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-UML getting to lead the government twice each since the last CA polls, NC’s claim is natural. Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s pre-condition that there should be an understanding on new constitution before NC-led government can be formed is unhelpful. The issue here is not about agreeing on some constitutional issues as the parties have already decided to go for fresh CA polls.
The parties should understand that people would not accept any decision on the constitution made within the confines of four walls. The situation has completely changed since the 2008 CA election. UCPN (Maoist)’s claim to be the biggest party is no longer valid after its recent split. A section of disgruntled CPN-UML leaders have split to form a Federal Socialist Party (FSP) under the leadership of Ashok Rai; some other Janajati leaders and intellectuals are on the verge of forming a party of their own. Each outfit has its own views on the modalities of federalism. While UCPN (Maoist), Madhesi parties, FSP and Janajatis are in favor of single ethnic identity based federal structure, NC and UML have continued to stress on multi-ethnic identity based federalism. Therefore, the only way out is for the parties to take their agendas to the people.
Moreover, in order to hold free and fair election, formation of a consensus government is a necessity rather than a choice. No single party, whether or not it gets to lead the government, will be deprived of a say in consensus government. Therefore, the wrangling between the parties over the prime minister’s position is meaningless. Instead, there should be an understanding over common minimum program to create conducive environment for April, 2013 polls