Time to move on

Prime Minister Prachanda, upon return from his UN visit, told journalists that he would make fresh effort to bring the Nepali Congress into the government. But at Lalitpur the same day, Nepali

Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala left no doubt that the Congress would not join the Maoist-led government, also because it ‘suffered betrayal and insult from the Maoists’. The Congress has been saying since it decided to go into opposition that it will play ‘a positive role’ in constitution making but will stand up to ‘defend democracy’. Koirala has also said that the Congress is not seeking to bring down the present government. It was, and still is, up to the Congress to become part of the present coalition or not. It was the Congress that had chosen the role of Opposition; nobody had forced it into it. So the fault or merit of this decision lies with the Congress, nobody else.

The accusation that the Maoists tried to ‘insult’ or ‘humiliate’ the Congress, particularly in the matter of government formation, can hardly bear scrutiny. The other two major coalition partners — the CPN-UML and the MJF — have got a better share of power than their relative strength in the Constituent Assembly. Even the Number Two man in the Cabinet comes from the CPN-UML. It is inconceivable that the Congress could have got a less favourable deal if it had made up its mind to work together in the government. Of the factors that led the Congress to harbour bitter feelings were certainly the ‘unexpected’ humiliation of the party at the CA polls, the failure of Koirala to become the first president of republican Nepal, the earlier Koirala effort to build a non-Maoist coalition, and the Congress desire, as expressed by several of its central leaders) to lead the government if this government fails.

Congress leaders’ acknowledgement that even their later demand for the Defence portfolio

was aimed at testing the Maoists rather than at joining the government gave further glimpses into the minds of top Congress leaders. The succession of demand after demand after the CA results, including the one that led to the requirement of simple majority to make or break government, had also strengthened the doubt that the Congress was not keen on becoming a part of a new coalition according to the relative positions of the political parties in the CA. It is one thing that both the present coalition partners and the general public would like to see the Congress to join the government, because the earlier understandings and agreements had

stipulated that whichever party came out on top in the polls, the parties would form a coalition government. Whatever may have led Prachanda to talk of trying afresh to rope the Congress in, but his effort is likely to go in vain. To join the government so late under the Maoists would mean a considerable loss of face for the Congress. Once the basis for consensus government had been destroyed, the need for it does not appear to be as compelling as before. What is of particular importance, however, is the need for all the parties, including the Congress, to work together to give the country a new constitution within the stipulated time.