Nepal's PM Prachanda announces his resignation during a nationwide broadcast in Kathmandu. (Reuters Photo)
While exiting, the 55-year-old former revolutionary trained his sights on Nepal’s first president, Dr Ram Baran Yadav, accusing the head of state of trying to set up a parallel power centre and taking the “unconstitutional and undemocratic” move to reinstate the general, whom the Maoists had sacked Sunday. He said he was quitting to create a conducive atmosphere for democracy and the peace process.
The fall of Prachanda’s eight-month-old government was on the cards after his five-party coalition government split vertically over Katawal’s dismissal. While two allies, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and Sadbhavana Party, walked out of the government Sunday opposing the dismissal, the two remaining partners, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and Communist Party of Nepal (United), boycotted an emergency cabinet Monday, clearly indicating that the Maoists had become isolated.
Soon after the desertions, the opposition, former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC), asked Prachanda to resign, threatening to bring a no-trust vote in the interim parliament if he tried to stay on with the support of the fringe parties.
Leaving with all guns blazing, the Maoist chief also blamed the opposition and his own allies as well as India for his government’s failure to meet people’s expectations, saying there was a conspiracy to kill Nepal’s “infant republic”.
While he accused the opposition parties of calling strikes at the drop of a hat and obstructing parliament, New Delhi, without being named, was accused of intervention. The Maoist prime minister said that though his government had wanted cordial relations with its neighbours, it would at no cost kow-tow to foreign powers or depend on them to save its seat of power.
With the exit of the Maoists, the UML began parleys with the NC to come up with an alternative government. “The NC could support a UML-led government from outside,” said NC foreign affairs chief and Koirala’s daughter Sujata Koirala. “However, we are stressing on consensus and completion of the peace process within the stipulated time.”
UML chief Jhalanath Khanal said his party would convene a meeting of all 25 parliamentary parties, including the Maoists, Tuesday to discuss a consensus government.
While Prachanda is unlikely to rejoin a UML-led cabinet, Maoist Finance Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai said his party could extend support or even join the new government if it rectified the “unconstitutional measures taken by the president”.
These would include freshly dismissing the army chief, who was reinstated by the president last night, and also removing the president. In his exit address, Prachanda indicated that the Maoists would now start a new struggle against the president.
With anti and pro-Maoist rallies keeping up pressure Monday, the district authorities enforced prohibitory orders near the army headquarters and presidential residence, banning all rallies and demonstrations.
Though there was no immediate reaction from the former royal family, a former aide, who did not want to be named, said deposed crown prince Paras would be delighted with the Maoist humbling. “The threat of a new investigation into the palace massacre that might have implicated his family – rightly or intentionally – is now gone,” he said. “The Maoist exit will also allow Paras to explore the possibility of extending his sphere of influence in Nepal. Maybe now he will launch the party he said he wanted to.”
Ban calls for consensus
“The Secretary-General is seriously concerned about the current political crisis in Nepal centred on the relationship between the Government and the Chief of Army Staff and the possible risks posed to the peace process,” a statement issued by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office in New York said. “The Secretary-General calls on all concerned to resolve the crisis through dialogue and consensus, with full respect for the provisions of the constitution.”