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Nepal PM Prachanda resigns; political crisis deepens

Prachanda resigned after his Maoist government's decision to sack the army chief was scuttled by the President,deepening the political crisis and raising the spectre of renewed rebel unrest.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Prachanda resigned on Monday after his Maoist government’s decision to sack the army chief was scuttled by the President,deepening the political crisis and raising the spectre of renewed rebel unrest in the country.

“I have resigned from the post of prime minister from today for the protection of democracy and peace,” 54-year-old Prachanda,who had taken the reins of the country eight months ago,said in a televised address to the nation.

The announcement came after President Ram Baran Yadav directed Army Chief General Rukmangad Katawal to continue in office,saying his dismissal by the cabinet does not “meet the constitutional requirements and due process.”

The Maoist regime accused Katawal of defying the government’s orders by reinstating eight Generals retired by the Maoist administration.

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“The move by the President is an attack on this infant democracy and the peace process,” Prachanda said,accusing him of taking an “unconstitutional and undemocratic decision.”

“The interim constitution does not give any right to the president to act as a parallel power,” said Prachanda,whose government was reduced to a minority after key ally CPN-UML announced withdrawal of support due to differences over the removal of Katawal.

The political crisis,which follows months of tussle between the premier and the army chief over the induction of former Maoist rebels into the army,is threatening the fragile peace process in the country that witnessed a decade-long insurgency waged by the Maoists before they returned to mainstream in 2006 after singing a peace deal.

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While announcing the resignation,Prachanda accused “national and international reactionary forces” of hatching a “conspiracy” against his government and the nascent republic which abolished its 240-year-old monarchy in May last year.

“I will quit the government rather than remain in power by bowing down to the foreign elements and reactionary forces,” said Prachanda,whose government was sworn in on August 15 last year after the Maoists emerged as the single largest party in the Constituent Assembly elections.

In an oblique reference to India,he said his party is ready to maintain “cordial relations” with the neighbouring countries but will “not accept any intervention”. Prachanda accused “reactionary forces” of obstructing the Maoist government in its efforts to introduce various reform programmes. He admitted that the government could not perform up to the expectations of people “due to various obstacles put by regressive forces and ongoing shutdowns and agitations”.

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He also said he is committed to democracy,human rights and press freedom and asserted his party’s commitment to the peace process.

Earlier,another top Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara had said the Madhesi-origin President’s move is tantamount to a “constitutional coup” which has put the “peace process in peril”. “We have decided to fight against the (President’s) move in the court,streets and Parliament,” senior Maoist leader Bahadur Rayamajhi had said.

It is being speculated here that CPN-UML may try to form a government under its leadership as Nepali Congress,the second largest party in Parliament,has already given a green signal. Party’s general secretary Jhalanath Khanal and former general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal are the two possible names doing the rounds for the top post.

Currently,the Maoist strength in the 601-member Constituent Assembly is 238. The NC has 112 seats,UML 108,Madhesi People’s Rights Forum 53,Terai Madhes Democratic Party 21 and Sadbhavana Party nine seats. A minimum of 301 seats are required to form a government.

First published on: 04-05-2009 at 04:30:11 pm
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