New Nepal PM agreed to quit May 24: Report

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Monday, February 7, 2011

KATHMANDU - Instead of stabilising Nepal’s turbulent political situation after a seven-month-long vacuum, the election of a new prime minister has stirred up further turmoil amid reports about a secret pact between the ruling party and the former Maoist insurgents.

Jhala Nath Khanal, chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, who was admitted oath of office Sunday as the new prime minister but failed to swear in a cabinet due to power-sharing disputes with his new ally, the Maoists, faces another controversy now.

The 61-year-old former school teacher, who has already antagonised his own party and other major parties by striking a secret pact with the Maoists before last week’s prime ministerial election to gain their support, had also pledged to step down by May 24, a report said.

“Both Khanal and Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda realise that they will not be able to promulgate a new constitution by May 28,” the Arthik Abhiyan, Nepal’s financial times, said in a front-page report Monday.

“Since they can’t implement the new constitution, Khanal will resign as prime minister on May 24,” the daily said quoting unnamed political sources. “The leaders agreed that after Khanal quits, Dahal will become the new PM with the support of the communists.

“That is why they signed a secret pact agreeing that the government will be led by turns.”

Monday’s report follows the damaging revelation soon after Khanal’s election that he inked a damaging seven-point agreement with the Maoists without the knowledge of his own party.

The clandestine pact pledges that the Khanal government will form a new security body comprising either the guerrilla army of the Maoists or the guerrillas and an equal number of state security forces.

It also says the government will be led by rotation by the communists and the Maoists.

The agreement is already under fire from the communists’ earlier ruling partner, the Nepali Congress, as well as all other major parties, who said they would not allow the Maoist army to be inducted en masse.

The fate of nearly 20,000 fighters of the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army has been a major stumbling block in the formation of a new government and new constitution.

All other parties, even Khanal’s own, have opposed the bulk induction of the PLA in the state security forces, saying the fighters will be taken individually and that too if they met the eligibility criteria.

With fears remaining about the loyalty of the PLA, the other parties believe a separate PLA force will support the Maoists and lead to fresh violence in the days to come.

Assuming power amidst allegations of double-cross and horse-trading, Khanal faces a rocky way ahead.

The formation of a new cabinet has already run into a fierce fight with the Maoists staking claim to the key ministry of home affairs and threatening not to join the government without it.

Khanal had to be sworn in alone Sunday after talks with the Maoists broke down over power-sharing.

Now, in another blow to the new government’s image even before it started functioning, it was revealed that two of the three ministers are leaders who lost the 2008 elections.

Khanal has chosen Bharat Mohan Adhikari, a former deputy PM and brother of Nepal’s first elected communist PM Man Mohan Adhikari, as his finance minister.

However, Adhikari had lost from Morang in eastern Nepal during the historic constituent assembly election in 2008; so had Gangalal Tuladhar, chosen to be the education minister.

Tuladhar lost from Dhading, close to the state capital.

The third leader chosen by Khanal - Bishnu Poudel - is a former power minister whose tenure saw Nepal reeling under 18 hours’ power cuts daily.

From Monday, Nepal faces a 14-hour power outage daily.

Khanal, who had pledged to complete the constitution and the peace process, had also promised he would appoint competent ministers who had not been defeated in the elections.

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