Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Maoists win power war in Nepal

KATHMANDU: Nepal's former Maoist guerrillas once again proved their dominion over the government on Monday by forcing Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal to reshuffle the cabinet despite stiff resistance from the premier's own party as well as the biggest opposition party.

The communist leader, who came to power in February riding piggyback on the Maoists and is solely dependant on their support for the survival of his five-month-old government, inducted 10 more ministers in his 34-member cabinet, with nine of them being from the Maoist party and the 10 th from Terai party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum.

The new Maoist ministers include one of the three deputy chiefs of the party, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, who got the coveted home ministry, Hisila Yami (land reforms), the wife of another deputy, Dr Baburam Bhattarai, and Jayapuri Gharti Magar (women, children and social welfare), who is from the faction loyal to the third deputy, Mohan Baidya, and had refused to take oath of office for the same portfolio two months ago.

The reshuffle, at a time the fate of the government will become uncertain after Aug 31, became necessary for Prachanda. Facing a triangular tussle for leadership in his party, this was the best sop he could offer his contending deputies and keep his grip on the party leadership. For Khanal, the revamp was necessary for his survival with the Maoists recalling their existing ministers Sunday and threatening to withdraw support to the government.

However, though the weak but wily PM has managed to save his skin for now, he has more challenges to overcome. The immediate one is to get parliament to function. The houses has remained obstructed since last month by the opposition Nepali Congress, who say they will keep up the protest till Khanal resigns.

Also, just 30 days later, Khanal will have to promulgate the new constitution, an impossible task. Failing that, he would need to show two-third majority in the house to amend the interim constitution and continue his stint in power. The opposition is certain to seek its pound of flesh then.


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