As the constituent assembly braces to breathe its last despite moves to pump in artificial oxygen a political time bomb starts ticking<br>SUSHIL SHARMA

March 28, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 04 No.-19 Mar.25-2011 (Chaitra 11,2067)

Last week, an influential aide to a top leader sought his boss’ permission for a foreign jaunt. The response: a flat NO.

“You can not leave the country for at least another two months,” the most trusted aide, on whom the leader heavily depends, was told.

The precaution was understandable. As the constitution deadline draws closer, the next two months will be the most unpredictable time after the dawn of a republic.

The UML-led Maoist-dominated coalition has its eyes clearly set on extending the life of the constituent assembly for the second time.

Others and the factions within the governing parties are not too keen. The Madhesi outfits have even gone on to warn of resignation en-masse against such a move.

New constitution or not, the CA is almost bound to breathe its last. In the next two months or so, bringing along a dangerous political vacuum.

It is this vacuum and a possible role he might be expected to play to fill it that the top leader had in mind when he refused to give a green signal to his trusted aide’s foreign jaunt.

Having failed to steer the country through a critical transition to a peaceful and stable political journey, the major parties have also been bracing up for the inevitable.

The Maoist supremo Prachanda dashed off to Singapore for an unspecified meeting with unspecified people under the official banner of a dubious organization that had earlier last year provided him the opportunity to meet senior intelligence officials of another neighbour last year.

Having engineered the incumbent coalition, Prachanda might be inclined to see it complete the constitution and peace process. He is not, according to the sources.

Wary that the credit will go to the prime minister Jhalnath Khanal he is keen to bring him down and assume the mantle himself. Before the constitution deadline. Hence his feelers to the influential power centres at home and abroad.

As of now he has not been able to make much headway. Waiting for his failure is rival, Baburam Bhattarai, who has been pursuing a campaign to consolidate own position among the former rebel ranks.

If Bhattarai is seen to be strong enough to bulldoze his way and prevail over Prachanda and ‘hardliner’ Mohan Vaidya, the future path will be clear for him.  But getting there appears to be too tough for him. And he is not too tough yet to get going.

There are many others, waiting in the wings as alternatives. It was not for nothing that former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa and the Madhesi leaders embarked on Delhi sojourns for political meetings and consultations. After all, Delhi continues to be the Mecca for the secular politicians of the erstwhile Hindu nation.

With prayers for a smooth and natural end to the political transition less likely to be answered, the new republic is set for a fresh bout of turmoil.

No wonder the aide to the top leader has been asked to stand by.

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