The race is on, again. For the coveted chair of the prime minister. The uncertainty over the fate of the constituent assembly may have ended following a near-consensus reached after a last-minute high-profile overt and covert ‘international’ diplomacy, but not the fate of the man believed to have the crucial ‘international’ backing.
Unsure of his future and sure of the power games being played behind his back, prime minister Baburam Bhattarai hastily called select journalists to his residence last week to assert the claim for a continuity in office.
“There is a tacit gentleman’s agreement that I would continue to head the new government” which he said would soon a take a consensus shape after the Nepali Congress and the UML come on board.
The ‘consensus’ government would continue until the peace process and the constitution-making are complete, Bhattarai said.
There are not many takers, though. Both the Nepali Congress and the UML have ruled out joining the Bhattarai government, calling instead for a new government under what they claim to be a ‘gentleman’s agreement reached while agreeing to extend the term of the CA for another six months.
While the UML chairman Jhalanath Khanal has taken up the cudgel to oust Bhattarai, the Nepali Congress veterans, Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel, have begun fighting among themselves to replace Bhattarai who they say should not delay in clearing the way for them.
The Maoist chief, Prachanda, is not far behind in topple-Bhattarai game, although he has kept a low profile.
He has ruled out himself as a contender for the office, but he did not hide what he has in mind when he said in an interview, “if there is a consensus alternative from other parties that cannot be ignored altogether.”
Few doubt that after the installation of the Bhattarai government the peace process has moved forward, so have the moves toward the constitution-making.
At the same time, few doubt that the Bhattarai government would move forward despite what has been claimed as his achievements.
The prime minister appears aware of this, but he is banking on “international’ support.
The influential neighbour, India, appears to have thrown its weight behind Bhattarai, but whether that alone can suffice for his continuity is suspect.
Many other international actors have begun to assert themselves in Nepali affairs in recent times. This has only increased after Bhattarai had been installed at the pedestal of power.
How the games would play out in the days to come will decide the result of the musical chair for the prime minister’s office. Indications are clearly not too good for the JNU alumnus.