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War of nerves in Nepal as PM faces ouster

Sunday July 31, 2011 12:57:14 PM, Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS

Kathmandu: Under fire from his own allies, the Maoists, Nepal's communist Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal Sunday sought help from the opposition to save his five-month-old government but was instead told to quit.

Time started running out for Khanal with the Maoists, the largest party in the ruling coalition whose support has kept the weak alliance afloat, withdrawing their 12 ministers from the cabinet and giving him time till Sunday night to induct 24 ministers from their party.

If Khanal refuses to reshuffle the cabinet, the former guerrillas have threatened to withdraw support from the government.

The prime minister is caught between his allies and the opposition with the latter too having stepped up its demand for his resignation.

The main opposition party, the Nepali Congress, began a blockade of parliament this month, saying it would keep up the obstruction till the prime minister stepped down.

A shaken Khanal Sunday made a last-ditch attempt to hang on to power by rushing for consultations with Nepali Congress chief Sushil Koirala and other leaders and seeking their support.

Koirala, however, told him to resign and clear the decks for a new, all-party government.

It was a case of nemesis finally overtaking the communist leader who had deserted the Nepali Congress, his party's old ally, to join forces with the Maoists so that he could become the new prime minister.

After talks with the opposition failed, the prime minister told reporters he was ready to pave the way for "national consensus".

Political analysts predict that Khanal will try to hold fresh consultations with the Maoists and seek to woo them back with sops.

Even then, he would be only postponing the unravelling of his government.

A new constitution crisis lurks only a month away.

The government has to promulgate a new constitution by Aug 31, a task that has already been delayed twice since 2010.

However, with the three major parties at loggerheads, the new statute is not likely to be ready within the deadline. From Aug 31 midnight, the Khanal government will lose its legitimacy.

Since 2008, Nepal has seen four governments in three years with none able to take the peace process to conclusion or persuade the Maoists to disband their guerrilla army of nearly 20,000 combatants.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at






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