Opposition unites to demand Bhattarai resignation

Less than a week after Nepal’s major parties took an in-principle decision to hold elections for a new Constituent Assembly, jostling over government leadership has resulted in a fresh political deadlock.

Opposition parties led by the Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) have allied with the radical Maoist faction led by Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’ and Madhesi leader Upendra Yadav to launch ‘street protests’, demanding Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s immediate resignation.

The NC has claimed the leadership of a ‘national unity’ government to hold polls. Senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba told reporters on Tuesday that Prime Ministership was the party’s ‘demand and right’.

The NC’s claims are based on the five-point agreement signed in early May, which had said an NC-led government would hold the elections. Party vice president Ram Chandra Poudel said only the NC had the credibility to hold ‘free and fair’ elections. The faction-ridden party has however not projected any leader as their PM candidate.

While united on seeking the ouster of the governing coalition,

Mr. Kiran’s party has opposed the decision to announce elections, calling it ‘deception’, and terming it a ‘ploy to mislead the people’. The radical Maoists have instead called for a ‘round-table conference’ to resolve the political impasse. Party’s senior leader C P Gajurel said they too could claim leadership of the next government.

Response

The ruling Maoist-Madhesi Front alliance has insisted on a package deal on all election-related aspects first. Several election-related issues are yet to be resolved including nature of polls, election system, dates and mechanism to amend the interim constitution to pave way for a second CA election.

A senior Maoist leader told The Hindu, “This should be the focus right now. We feel that NC is not interested at all in holding CA elections. It just wants to take power, and then it will undermine the agenda itself and push for parliamentary polls at a time when they are more confident.”

Rejecting the NC’s claims for leadership, the ruling alliance argues that the premise of the five-point agreement was that NC would get government leadership, once all constitutional issues were agreed upon.

“Since the NC proved to be the key obstacle in constitution writing, there is no reason to give them the leadership,” said Minister for Information and government spokesperson, Rajkishore Yadav.

While some Madhesi ministers have floated the idea of a ‘neutral candidate’ to lead the unity government, the Maoists have claimed that the Bhattarai-led government could take the country into the next polls.

Maoist leader Post Bahadur Bogati has said that seeking to remove the government through a movement was an ‘open invitation to conflict’.

As part of the Federal Democratic Republican Alliance (FDRA), the Maoists, Madhesi parties and other small outfits have planned rallies across the country in the coming weeks to project the opposition as ‘anti federal’, and create awareness for a ‘constitution with federalism, federalism with identity, and constitution from a CA’.

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