It is a testimony to the remarkable patience and fortitude of the Nepali people that they are still willing to give their motley crew of politicians the umpteenth chance to form a government. For months now, we have seen the farcical attempts to elect a prime minister, after the 17th of which Maoist chief Prachanda withdrew to allow Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist leader Jhala Nath Khanal to assume the post. But a week later,
Mr Khanal has not been sworn in after talks on power-sharing between him and Prachanda have broken down. The Maoists have now agreed to support the government from outside. The rift is not on any matter of principle, it is simply on who gets the larger share of the pie and on how to create a security force to absorb the 20,000-strong Maoist guerrilla army. That Mr Khanal came to an agreement with Prachanda and agreed to this as well as to run the government in turns came as a shock to his own party which has refused to accede these demands. So, in effect, Nepal is back to square one.
Mr Khanal's first task will, if he is sworn in, be to get the budget endorsed. That is not likely to happen and this will plunge the country further into a financial crisis. The drafting of the much-awaited constitution which was to herald the dawn of a new Nepal has all but been suspended and there is no way Mr Khanal will be able to promulgate it by May 28. Any which way you look at it, the one thing that is clear is that the Maoists are loathe to share power with anyone. Even though it is clear now that the people have little faith in the likes of Prachanda to lift the impoverished mountain nation out of the quagmire, the Maoists to whom democracy is anathema, have no intention of honouring their wishes.
This bickering over the loaves and fishes of office has come at a very high cost to Nepal. Its tourism industry is in the doldrums and foreign aid agencies are hesitant to give funds to a country where all institutions of governance seem to have collapsed. The democratic dividend which was to come after the exit of Nepal's last monarch King Gyanendra has simply vanished into the Himalayan mountain mist. Prachanda and his cohorts have come up with that hoary old chestnut that foreigners are preventing progress in Nepal. There is no doubt that India figures on top of the list. This inability to take responsibility for their country's fate is precisely what is keeping Nepal down. We have heard of people getting the leaders they deserve, this is a case of leaders getting a country they don't deserve.