Stewardship by failed actors

Even if Bhattarai quits, Nepal's political puzzle will not be solved

Nepal's politics is becoming too complicated a puzzle to be solved instantly. The current debate and prescriptions from many stakeholders appear too simplistic and short-term. President Ram Baran Yadav has asked caretaker Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to resign and pave the way for a national unity government. Bhattarai insists other parties must join his cabinet and make him the head of such a government. Alternatively, the discredited and divided political parties must first decide on his successor, and only then will he think of quitting. Bhattarai has also questioned the president's right to remove a PM.

The absence of a full-fledged constitution and a parliament-cum-constituent assembly a government should be accountable to, allows space for the executive or the PM to be dictatorial. Bhattarai and his Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) don't want to give up such an ideal status, and therefore insist on hanging on to power. The president's "constitutional status" and the failure of the other major parties to decide whether to go for a revival of the failed Constituent Assembly (CA) or fresh polls has only strengthened the UCPN-M.

Interestingly, while UCPN-M chief Prachanda has lobbied for the CA's revival, Bhattarai insists on fresh polls, but there are many constitutional and political impediments in choosing either option. The absence of a broader political understanding is at the root of the stalemate.

The president's right and responsibility in a situation — not clearly foreseen by the interim constitution — have triggered intense debate, but on November 9, he gave ample indication to Bhattarai that November 21 should be his last day in office. Bhattarai had recommended elections to the new CA for that day, something the election commission has already ruled out. Moreover, the PM has failed to secure the opposition's support — a precondition set by the president — for a full-fledged budget through ordinance by November 15. What if the president refuses to endorse the budget that Bhattarai is determined to bring out?

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