PRESIDENT Ram Baran Yadav has once again extended the deadline for consensus government by five days after the major parties failed to establish consensus by Monday. The fresh deadline, which ends coming Saturday, gives the parties some more time to work out a deal. The much-touted understanding, supposedly reached early this week, appears to have faltered on Monday after the caretaker prime minister Baburam Bhattarai balked at the last moment. Even though UCPN (Maoist), NC and CPN-UML had managed to strike a deal on consensus government under the leadership of NC president Sushil Koirala, thereby clearing the way for April/May 2013 CA polls, Bhattarai managed to come up with yet another condition in the end: that his government be turned into a consensus one, at least for a short period. This fresh condition created a hurdle in the almost-certain deal. The opposition’s refusal to join Bhattarai-led government to give it consensus status is practical, as they have been demanding his ouster before any meaningful negotiations, which is also our position. Trying to turn Bhattarai’s government into a consensus one makes little sense, as it was formed on the basis of limited understanding between UCPN (Maoist) and Madhesi alliance by leaving important actors out of negotiations.
The Bhattarai-led government has clearly failed to garner support from major forces to hold the election of new CA. His mistake is two-fold. First, he unilaterally decided to call for fresh election, hours before the expiry of the CA on May 27. Second, Bhattarai, failing to hold the self-declared polls on Nov. 22, announced yet another election for next year, again unilaterally. Bhattarai has failed to convince people that he can hold election in April, since he failed to do so in November. They want to know what had changed in the interim period. In reality, there was virtually no change. In this situation, Bhattarai’s fresh condition can be interpreted as just another of his ploys to stick to power.
We understand the intra-party tussle between UCPN (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and vice-chairman Bhattarai is impacting inter-party negotiations. But people are unlikely to be convinced by this argument. As a democratic party, the Maoists should be able to present a united front on important national issues. The people are not only frustrated with the inept leadership of major parties, they have now come to believe that it is the leaders’ lust for power that has resulted in the failure of all negotiations till date. This has had a negative impact on the images of political parties, with a large section of the society seeing the President’s active part as the only way out. This would be unfortunate not only for the country, which is running under an Interim Constitution that envisions little active role for the President, but also for the cause of democracy in Nepal.
We therefore urge the caretaker prime minister to come out of his echo-chamber and start listening to the people’s voices. The people want election of new CA by April/May, and no later. For that, Bhattarai needs to rise to the occasion and accept the understanding between his chairman and opposition parties for consensus government under NC leadership. Bhattarai’s insistence has not only damaged his public image but it also risks putting him in the inglorious company of the most unsuccessful prime ministers in the country’s history.