Friday, August 12, 2011

Khanal in deep dilemma after Maoists refuse to provide lifeline

KATHMANDU, Aug 13: Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal is in deep dilemma whether to resign on Saturday as he had publicly promised after the UCPN (Maoist) refused to throw a lifeline that the prime minister was so desperately hoping for.

A meeting of the Maoist party’s office bearers held on Friday did not take any concrete decision as expected by Prime Minister Khanal and his close aides on the peace process, nor did it decide to prolong the life of the Khanal government.

Until Friday morning Baluwatar was desperately hoping that the Maoist party would take some concrete decision on the peace process so that Khanal could take it as an excuse to avoid resignation.

The Maoist party, instead, not only skipped any decision on the peace process but also said resignation was Prime Minister Khanal’s “personal decision and the party would neither press him on it nor request him to stay put.”

The prime minister’s aides were scrambling till late evening to interpret the Maoist intention and to speculate how politics will unfold on Saturday, the last day of Prime Minister Khanal’s self-imposed deadline for resignation.

Prime Minister Khanal would have made up his mind to resign on Saturday had the Nepali Congress and Maoists been close to an agreement or even made substantial progress in their negotiations.

Despite several rounds of informal negotiations between the Maoists and the NC, including one Friday morning, the two parties are nowhere close to an agreement. “Our differences continue and I see a slim chance of an agreement in a day or two,” said an NC leader, who is part of the NC negotiating team.

The NC is no less perplexed as to what the Maoists’ strategy could be. “On the one hand, they seem to be in a mood to sever ties with Prime Minister Khanal, on the other, the chances of a peace deal with us still seems remote,” said the NC leader.

Maoists are not as short-sighted not to see the risk of a possible alliance among the NC, UML and the Madhes-based parties if Prime Minister Khanal resigned and if there was no agreement on the peace process.

Why are the Maoists then treading this risky path?

“We are serious about forming a national consensus government under our leadership and it’s our conviction that the NC and the Maoists will agree to it and negotiate with us in earnest to reach a deal on the peace process,” said a top Maoist leader, requesting anonymity.

He also said that his party has lost faith in Khanal government after “Khanal unilaterally decided to resign and tried to reach out to NC with the intention of blackmailing us.”

But Prime Minister Khanal is still hoping that something positive will come up in Saturday’s three-party meeting or at least there will be huge differences between the NC and the Maoists that will provide a pretext for him to stay on.

There is, however, no unanimity of opinion in Baluwatar as well. Though the overwhelming sentiment is that Prime Minister Khanal should not resign on Saturday, some are arguing that defaulting on the public pledge to resign could be too costly for him. “What happens to his image or UML’s image for that matter if he refuses to resign tomorrow [Saturday] but is forced to do so in a week or two?” asked a UML leader.

Published on 2011-08-13 00:00:05 

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