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COVER STORY

 
POLITICS Extending Uncertainty

As prime minister Jhalanath Khanal’s own party, the UML, turns its back on him and a key ally, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Nepal, witnesses a vertical split the Maoists-dominated multi-party coalition suffers a critical setback ahead of a vote it planned to hold on the CA extension in the hope of bulldozing its way by a two-thirds majority

By SAROJ DAHAL

As of writing this the fate of the constituent assembly has remained hung in balance. But new developments have effectively threatened the fate of the government.

Five days before the CA deadline, one of the three key partners of the coalition government witnessed a third split in two years.

The vertical split of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Nepal led by deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Upendra Yadav, has sealed any hopes of the prime minister Jhalanath Khanal to push the CA extension agenda through by a two-thirds majority.

The same day, the UML ruled out the extension of the CA on a mathematical basis and even decided to ‘clear the decks’, if necessary, for national consensus.

That was a clear signal to Khanal that he might have to quit.

The Nepali Congress has brought most of the small parties together against the move to extend the CA’s life. They have insisted that the Maoists be disarmed and the previous promises be met before the extension.

The Maoists have been somewhat shown flexibility in dealing with the vexing issue of the combatants living in camps across the country.

Once bitten twice shy, the other parties are far from assured.

The Maoists, on their part, are not sure if the other parties will treat them the way they have been so far. Separated from the combatants and the arms, the Maoists do not feel secure enough of a political space in the national politics.

The political developments in recent days have not been too favourable to the Maoists.

They have found themselves cornered from many quarters – national as well as international.

Not that the other parties are not in favour of the extension of the CA for which the Maoists are so desperate.

They would go for it, not sure of themselves what would follow if the CA is not extended, but on their terms.

The “consensus” that they are insisting ahead of the CA extension would require the effective marginalization of the Maoists as an armed outfit. The Maoists are not prepared for it – unsure of the future as an out-and-out civilian outfit.

The Maoists believe that the other parties will ultimately fall in line with CA extension proposal. According to them, there is no alternative. But the others believe the Maoists have no other option to fall in line with the call for a total disarming of the former rebels.

Both sides may have stakes in giving the CA another short life, but as both indulge in brinkmanship anything can happen and plunge the country into a totally different course of politics.

 
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