King Gyanendra met on Tuesday the heads of three parties represented in the dissolved parliament — Sher Bahadur Deuba of the breakaway Nepali Congress (Democratic), Pashupati Shumsher Rana of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Badri Prasad Mandal of the Nepal Sadbhawana Party. Their meetings took place after the heads of three agitating political parties rebuffed the invitations from the palace for separate meetings with the King arguing that they prefer to stick to the position taken by the five parties for a collective audience. This is the second time that the three leaders rejected the royal invitations for consultations, and also that the other three leaders — Deuba, Rana and Mandal — met the King twice in 13 days. This is fraught with important implications for the shape of the next government. Deuba and Rana say they have advised the King to grant a collective audience to the leaders of the five parties.
For the post of prime minister, several submissions have been made to the palace, including one by a group of women for a woman prime minister. Deuba has maintained that the reinstatement of his government will mean a correction of the October 4 step. Rana and Mandal may naturally want to become prime minister, but their cases appear to be less than promising for now. The five parties have been demanding that the next prime minister should be appointed on their recommendation. A mere change of guard does not fulfil their demands. According to them, the more important things are how the prime minister is appointed and what powers he will have and that the palace should by public declaration transfer the sovereignty and state powers to the political parties on behalf of the Nepali people. They have also asserted that it is not the palace, but the parties, which should set the qualifications for prime minister.
Various forces are exerting influence on the course of Nepali politics. Not to be discounted, however, is the role of certain foreign actors. Their recent stress that the King and the constitutional parties should come together has not passed without effect. But it is doubtful whether elections can be held without an understanding with the Maoists. Within the existing framework, what is of utmost importance is whether the formation of the next government can bring the Constitution back on the rails. Much lip-service has been paid to the resolution of the Maoist insurgency, but little concrete initiative has been taken. The political actors should no longer use the Maoist issue for their narrow political gains, to prolong their stay in power or to justify their extra-constitutional actions. The next government should also be judged solely on the basis of its problem-solving capability, real or potential.