Despite the parties’ rhetoric, a consensus government looks increasingly unlikely<br>SAROJ DAHAL

Jan. 10, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 04 No .-14 Jan. 07-2011 (Poush 23,2067)

The extended deadline of the constitution drafting is fast drawing closer, but the much sought-after consensus remains elusive as ever.

The reason: all major parties are running after the seat of power. The constitution and the peace process are not high on their priority.

As each party seeks to gain the upper hand in the power struggle, internal wrangling have badly shaken them.

It was this wrangling that destroyed an earlier agreement on power-sharing on rotation basis. Under the tacit agreement, the Nepali Congress was to lead the government first, followed four months later by the Maoists on completion of the peace process.

The idea did not find many takers in the hardline Maoist camp. And the dissenters forced the party to seek the special session of parliament. This vitiated the slowly building atmosphere of mutual trust.

The routine winter session has subsequently been called. But there is no sign yet of a breakthrough in government-formation.

The parties realize the urgency of a new government at the earliest. But they are also in a hurry to lead it first. None of the parties are sure if the others will leave the chair once they grab it. Hence the current stalemate.

Given the present mind-set of the parties, all one can expect, if at all, from the winter session of parliament which is due to begin shortly is a majority government.

Probably, if going by what has been transpiring behind the scene as of this writing, Ram Chandra Poudel’s long-cherished dream could come true. The Maoists will then sit in the opposition

Maoist chief Prachanda has given a verbal assurance to this effect, although he has also been busy floating a number of other names like Sher Bahadur Deuba and Shekhar Koirala for the top job.

The other camp, led by Baburam Bhattarai, is also said to be in favour of a Congress-led government. Bhattarai has personally relayed the message to Poudel.

But many suspect a Maoist double-game here. They point at the support offer made to the UML boss, Jhalanath Khanal, who seems more assured than before of landing at Baluwatar.

Whether and how he overcomes resistance from within the UML is, however, a big question - answer to which is not easy to find.

Only one thing has become clear so far: no Maoist-led government before the peace process is completed.

What is not clear yet is: will the new government take the shape of a national unity outfit with the Maoists also on board or the former rebels will continue to sit in the opposition bench.

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