Daya Varma



Jhalanath Khanal, the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) [CPN-UML] became the new Prime Minister of Nepal after receiving support from the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [UCPNM]. The deal between the leaders of the two communist parties was okayed by Deuba, the leader of the Nepal Congress. Indeed Deuba urged the two parties to settle their disputes and provide formal shape to the government and start drafting the constitution drafting and expediting peace processes.


This is a good development for Nepal. Nepal Maoists have the most seats though not a majority;  Nepali Congress is second and CPN-UML third.   One would have expected the return of their leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) as the Prime Minister. However, this is neither acceptable to CPN-UML nor to Nepali Congress and other parties including the one representing the predominantly Indian settlers in Terai region of Nepal and more importantly India. 


However Prime Minister Khanal seems faced many hurdles as evidence by his difficulties  in forming a cabinet. After a week as the Prime Minister he was able to swear in only three ministers from his own party; they are  Bharat Mohan Adhikary, brother of Nepal’s first communist Prime Minister  Manmohan Adhikary, Bishnu Poudel and Ganga Lal Tuladhar.


At one stage the Maoists declined to  join the  government but would not withdraw support as that would mean the triumph of forces at home and abroad who were trying to destabilize Nepal. However, they would support the Khanal government on the basis of issues and performance.


The situation has changed in the meantime. According to an article by Prashant Jha in the Hindu (Feb 17),  the leaders of the two communist parties, CPN-UML and UCPN(Maoist) have reached a fresh agreement.  The  integration of the Maoist army combatants would take place as per the recommendation of the Special Committee, in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The Maoists will get 11 ministries, including Home, Foreign Affairs, and Peace and Reconstruction.


It would seem that UML’s decision to let Maoists hold the Home Ministry resolved the key hurdles.


However, in the South Asian context, coalition governments are most of the time less than 100 percent in office, which adversely affects their performance. The conflict within CPN-UML regarding the seven-point agreement between the Prime Minister Khnal of their own party and Maoist Chairman Dahal seems to have been resolved. This is assuring; however, ultimately a stable government in Nepal requires a much closer and principled cooperation, if not merger, between the  UML and Maoists than has been achieved so far.


The reality of Nepal is that no government can function without the support of the Maoists. At the same time Maoists cannot resume armed struggle. As well, United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is not as united as the name suggests. 


India has a big stake in developments in Nepal. However, there is no reason to think that India is interested in destabilizing the Nepal government or is especially hostile to the Nepalese Maoists.


(Compiled from different reports)

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