Nepali Times
"Did the President call?"

Nepal's political leaders had promised the people who elected them that they would have a deal to break the deadlock before the Dasain deadline. It didn't happen. Then they said they would use the festival season for 'mind fresh', and come up with a consensus. Emerging from the holidays burping from excessive indulgence, they sat on sofas at the party tea parties this week promising a deal 'by Tihar'. Procrastination and postponement have become a way of Nepali politics, and the people tuned off long ago.

The reason there is no deal is that no one really wants a deal. This elastic transition benefits everyone: the Baburam Bhattarai-led Maoist-Madhesi coalition is perfectly happy to extend its tenure so it can self-enrich itself on a grand scale from state coffers, rigor mortis seems to have set in on the Nepali Congress and UML which have become parties singularly lacking in new ideas, Pushpa Kamal Dahal is terrified of facing the electorate which is why he wants a CA reincarnation by hook or by crook, the rump Maoists also want a stab at prime ministership, but don't really care how they get there, and the Madhesi parties are comfortable being sought-after kingmakers.

Dahal is flogging a dead horse when he tirelessly pursues his demand to resurrect the Constituent Assembly. The reason he is obsessed with this option is because he can gain some momentum on his real goal of being an executive president by exploiting identity politics, sidelining his party rival Bhattarai, and keeping elections off the agenda. Few within his party trust Dahal anymore, but the wily Chairman has found strange bedfellows in NC politicians Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel to back his resurrection plan. The irony of it all is that Deuba and Poudel have no love lost between them, but they have fallen for Dahal's argument that he will scratch their backs if they scratch his.

Besides the technical, legal, and even ethical issues over CA revival, the most important argument against it is that we all know what will happen next: once the CA is revived it can be made to extend its mandate, perpetuate itself, while five-six men sit in a dark corner and haggle endlessly, and futilely, over power.

Which is why there is really no better alternative now than to go for fresh national and local elections to unlock the deadlock, and kick-start development. The NC and UML, plagued by internal rifts haven't been able to come up with any new ideas and keep repeating ad nauseum their mantra of launching a street agitation if the prime minister doesn't step down. They're bluffing because even the royalist party can pull more genuine supporters on the streets than their rented crowds. Besides, why should the Nepali people be called upon repeatedly to descend to the streets to bring down leaders when that should be done legitimately through elections?

For elections we will need a government of national unity just so that there is no incumbent advantage, and it is a level playing field. All the parties pay lip service to a consensus government, and what is holding things up is the chicken-or-egg conundrum: the prime minister says he won't step down until the opposition comes up with a candidate, and the opposition wants Bhattarai to step down first. And now they are playing politics again, and using the budget ordinance as a bargaining chip. Even Bhattarai's international supporters now feel he should step down to pave the way forward.

If all else fails, President Ram Baran Yadav will have to act. Like the king in chess, the President's moves are restricted, but he can (and is allowed to) play a pivotal role to remove obstacles during times of prolonged national paralysis like this. So far, President Yadav has played his cards cautiously. He may now have to threaten the party leaders that if they can't come up with a consensus government, he will have to declare one.

Like Selina Meyer in the sitcom, Veep, the Prime Minister may have to repeatedly ask his secretary in Baluwatar: "Did the President call?"

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1. Jiten
You, Nepali Times, thought the Maoists were this great hope for the future of Nepal. You were theones who never called them terrorists even though they terrorized your paper. You helped them get to power. Now they have shown themselves to be the monsters they always were. You deal with them.

2. Pushkar Dixit
Maybe Pushpa K Dahal has bought Nepali Times and is its real owner. That could be why Nepali Times supported the murderering Communist, who has killed thousands of people. Who can you trust in Nepal today. Everyone seems to be bent on making a quick and fast million or billion. Kathmandu has become of cesspoll of liars, cheats, killers and rapists. On top of that, the Indian Embassy controls and rules over Nepal. Where is the hope and where is the change in Nepalis's future.  Its a shame that Nepal cannot produce one honest to lead. With the way things are going,  Nepal is doomed.     

3. Nirmal
Nothing good happens in Nepal without the benevolent permission of India and RAW. Shah Kings never get tired of saying how bravely they fought for the independence of Nepali state but they were unable to exercise the very independent attitudes as a sovereign nation although they could have done it superbly. Forget the poor political parties who are paying thefavors and loans they asked at high rates of interests. 
Being independent makes you feel great but one needs lots of courage to do so because so often one ought to desprive oneself of many things that could have been easily accessed in case contrary . I doubt Mr. Yadav, a conventional politician -educated and taught as any other found in nepali market-  has any. He's almost surely waiting for a signal coming from the south-block. India has never cared about the smooth functioning of democratic process in Nepal nor any current nepali leader. All they care is their own interests. So let's leave the matter at the hands of pashupatinath.

4. Renu R

While writers and editors argue over what deals will be forged next or when leaders will come to an agreement, why does no one ever question the absolute ridiculousness of this entireset up? Who gave these 'top four' leaders the mandate or legitimacy to sit behind closed doors and decide the faith of 27 million Nepalis? The people who we elected to the CA are long gone and the ones who are making all the important decisions do not have public backing. 

Shouldn't we the people get to decide through a national referendum if we want to revive the CA or would rather go for fresh polls? Where is our democratic right? Letting people vote every four years (or every six to ten years in the case of Nepal) alone does not make a country democratic.  

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)