Sinking ship

The four-party Sher Bahadur Deuba government during these seven months has been unable to show itself to be any different from its predecessors Chand and Thapa governments. At least, they had managed to hold talks with the Maoists. But the incumbent does not seem able even to do it, let alone achieve a negotiated settlement, as its deadline for the rebels to come for talks is elapsing this Thursday. Deuba had claimed time and again that he, rather than anybody else, knew Maoists “better,” and hence was equipped to bring peace. The CPN-UML too had joined the government on the single agenda of bringing about a political solution and holding the elections. They had demanded “transfer of executive authority to the Cabinet.” The King “did” it in specific terms. The CPN-UML declared the Deuba government a “partial correction of regression,” and Deuba even claimed, contrary to general opinion, that his appointment under Article 127 amounted to his “reinstatement.”

Where are we now? Even the hope the Chand government had initially raised is gone now. Besides, the public is justified in questioning this government’s ability to make deals on the future road map for Nepal while coalition partners are crossing swords even on a minor issue such as choosing the central bank’s governor. Meanwhile, Bhim Rawal, a CPN-UML representative in the advisory and support sub-committee of the High Level Peace Committee, has resigned, citing “serious differences over the entire peace process.” But CPN-UML’s deputy prime minister Bharat Mohan Adhikari says it would make no difference to the peace process, adding that the CPN-UML would not quit the government over these issues, though its leaders have threatened to pull out over the governor issue.

Elsewhere, the party’s general secretary Madhav Nepal, pointing to the “ announcement” of elections in Chaitra, the last month of the Nepali calendar year, has indicated that the CPN-UML would leave the coalition if the peace talks did not get off the ground before that. He said there would be no point in the CPN-UML continuing in power if “its agenda” was not accepted. Issuing frequent threats to Deuba and then going back on them have been the striking features of the CPN-UML and its ministers. The people seem to have stopped giving attention to them. The CPN-UML entered the coalition and agreed to the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) it had a hand in crafting and it accepted the royal mandate to hold elections by restoring peace to the extent possible. Therefore, the CPN-UML just cannot escape from the blame that is likely to fall on this government for its failure to restore peace or at least to hold the polls, by blaming Deuba or by abandoning his ship which seems to be sinking fast.