Amidst the calls for him to stay back until there is a breakthrough, President Dr Ram Baran Yadav left for India on a five-day state visit. Before he left, he extended the deadline for new consensus government for the fifth time, by five more days. The new deadline for consensus (Dec. 29) coincides with the date of his return from India. We believe the President was right to ignore the voices for him to stay back. As a ceremonial head of the state, his presence or absence should have no real bearing on the course of national politics, whose trajectory will have to be decided by the political parties. If anything, if they are serious about giving the country a much-needed breakthrough, the President’s absence should make parties engage in earnest discussions without constant prodding from the head of the state.
Also on Monday, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai sent a message to Nepali Congress President and opposition PM candidate Sushil Koirala, proposing a two-step solution for the formation of national consensus government. In the first phase, the PM has proposed induction of NC and CPN-UML into his government to give it a national consensus status, to be followed in the second phase by the handover of leadership of new election government to Koirala. Alternatively, the PM has proposed consensus government under the leadership of Madhesi, fringe parties or an independent person.
Sadly, the PM’s proposal has nothing new that could help break the deadlock, and merely repeats the conditions that have been put forth by the ruling coalition for the past few months. This makes one question: If there is nothing new in the PM’s proposal, why did he send it? Perhaps Bhattarai wants to show his ‘flexibility’ in current negotiations, at a time when he has come under heavy criticism from a big section of intelligentsia, media and political parties (including his own) for the ‘my way or highway’ attitude of his coalition.
If that is the case, he is fooling no one. At the current juncture, there is simply no way out except the replacement of Bhattarai government by consensus government, preferably under NC leadership. As NC and UML have made it clear time and again, under no circumstances will they join the Bhattarai government. They believe (rightly) that Bhattarai has no moral and constitutional legitimacy after the repeated failure of his government to hold self-declared polls. In a troubling development, Bhattarai on Sunday expressed his determination to adopt a ‘tit for tat’ tactic: if the opposition parties are bent on moving ahead by boycotting him, the PM said, he too is not obliged to give them space. This kind of incendiary rhetoric is uncalled for.
Bhattarai should understand that the call for the exit of current government is not aimed at boycotting a particular person, but only an expression of the most favorable solution to ending the impasse. At most, the leadership of consensus government for a short time with NC and UML on board will earn Bhattarai some brownie points, no more. On the other hand, if he insists on hanging on, he risks losing even the little political capital that he still has