THE PRIME MINISTER (Don’t) Read My Lips

After completing a year of leading a hotchpotch coalition the beleaguered prime minister mulls early resignation but shows no signs yet of acting on it<BR><br>SUSHIL SHARMA and SAROJ DAHAL<BR>

June 22, 2010, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 04, NO. 02, june 18- 2010 (Ashad-04, 2067)

If he came true on what he confided to some journalists and politicians early this month, prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal would have stepped down by the time this report reached the readers.
Sitting down with select reporters over dinner at a  Patan residence he showed no intention of continuing in office any longer.


“Enough is enough”, he said in a reference to the non-cooperation from within the UML of which he once was a boss.


The main coalition partner, Nepali Congress, has firmly stood behind him. Some senior leaders of the main opposition Maoist too advised against quitting anytime soon.

But he has been feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the leaders from within own party including the chairman Jhalnath Khanal.
Nepal accuses them of making the country a hostage by indulging in “character assassination” despite  the party’s central committee’s decision to back him.

The dissident leaders even went on to advise the Maoist chairman Prachanda against reaching an agreement with the government on the issue of Maoist combatants’ integration and management. That was the information the prime minister got from his channels infuriating him even further.

Unable to counter the intrigues, he seemed to give up.
He said, if the political stalemate ends after his resignation, he is ready to put in papers.

He was even more apprehensive about the days ahead as the Maoists threatened to disrupt the parliament to stop the government from presenting the annual policies and programme and the new fiscal budget.


“I would rather step down than bending on my knees before the Maoists,” he said.

 

 He told as much to the leaders of the coalition partners and twice gave them a deadline to search for a consensus successor.
His latest deadline expires on June 18.
 
“He seemed serious about the deadline and the intention to quit,” said sources.

But two days before the deadline, he was a changed man.
He intensified consultations to convene the already-delayed budget session of the parliament come what may.
First he called a meeting of fringe parties whose support is crucial to keep him in power.

 

He apprised them of the government’s plan to call the session and present annual policies and programmes and the new fiscal budget.
Bolstered by a commitment of solid support at the meeting, prime minister Nepal rushed from Singh Durbar to Shital Niwas to “discuss” with president Ram Baran Yadav the prolonged political stalemate and his plan to go ahead with the budget session despite the Maoists’ threat of disruption.

 


Said his principal political advisor Raghu Pant, “the prime minister has been focusing on the convening of the budget session of parliament.”
After the coalition parties’ meeting and the prime minister’s meeting with the president, Pant flatly ruled out early resignation.
As long as he enjoys the support of the majority of the  deputies, there is no point why should the prime minister think of anything else, according to Pant.

For the moment, he has that support. The prime minister has been under pressure from them to remain in office.
Sources said, “even the opposition Madhesi Janadhikar Forum leader Upendra Yadav has privately asked him to stay put.”

 
Political advisor Pant said “Don’t go by what you hear (about the PM’s reported mood to quit), but do take notice of what you see him act.”

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