Signs are that the 15-month-long problem-ridden tenure of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai is finally coming to an end. The Bhattarai-led government lost its legitimacy right after the PM unilaterally dissolved Constituent Assembly (CA) hours before its natural death on May 27. Since then, his insistence on sticking to the country’s top executive post had been a major hurdle towards building political consensus for a new government. We have long maintained that Bhattarai has to vacate Singha Durbar to change the state of misunderstanding between the parties and to form a consensus government to hold new CA polls.
Now, even his party, UCPN (Maoist), seems to have accepted that it is not possible to turn the Bhattarai-led government into a consensus government, with main opposition parties Nepali Congress and CPN-UML in no mood to relent. The situation seems to have gone beyond Maoist control after the coordinator of their coalition partner—the United Democratic Madhesi Front—and Deputy Prime Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar on Tuesday ruled out consensus government under Bhattarai. Stating that the Madhesi alliance is not in favor of giving continuity to Bhattarai’s leadership in the new consensus government, Gachchhadar added that the country would not be able to resolve the current impasse by restricting any political force.
Gachchhadar also ruled out any preconditions for consensus government. “We cannot reach any agreement on the number of
[federal] provinces now. We don’t want any agreement that would undermine the rights of the sovereign people.”
We have been consistently reiterating in this space that the Maoist condition of agreements on major constitutional issues for the formation of national consensus government does not make much sense when the country is heading towards new polls. One thing which can certainly be done is to keep the works of the erstwhile CA on record, which could provide a base for the new CA while discussing and drafting the constitution. Let us not forget, the need for fresh mandate appeared in the first place owing to persistent differences among parties on important issues like state structuring and system of governance. Now is the time for the parties to take their agendas to the sovereign people and let them choose their new representatives based on those agendas.
There is no alternative to a consensus government, which alone can create a favorable environment for elections in April-May next year. Therefore, the parties should hammer out an agreement without further ado. The parties, instead of waiting for pressure from outside the country, should look to finding a solution from within. For this, the Maoists should agree to formation of a national consensus government under the leadership of NC president Sushil Koirala, with proper sharing of ministries between major parties and representatives from disgruntled groups. Only such a broad agreement would revive the parties’ image which has taken a battering after CA’s dissolution.
If they continue to fail to rise above petty interests and wrangling over leadership, unwarranted interventions that could jeopardize the historic achievements of the last six years cannot be ruled out. It bears mentioning that the situation on the ground has altered vastly since the 2008 CA election. Now the various disgruntled groups and communities are in no mood to accept decisions taken by the parties without proper debate. This again reinforces the conclusion that the only way out right now is to give the people yet another opportunity to express their wishes.