Despite their stunning electoral victory four months ago, Nepal's former Maoist guerrillas failed to garner consensus of all major parties and announce a new government within the seven-day presidential deadline given to them, that expired on Tuesday.
“We need some more time to finalise a common minimum programme as well as the council of ministers,” Maoist supremo Prachanda, who had staked claim to the prime minister's post after his party bagged the highest number of seats in the April election, told the media.
“So we requested the president to give us at least three more days to form a new government on the basis of consensus.”
A five-member Maoist delegation, including Prachanda, his deputy Baburam Bhattarai, and three lawmakers, met President Ram Baran Yadav Tuesday evening, requesting an additional 72 hours.
“The president has given us a positive response,” Prachanda said as his team came out of the presidential palace.
Last minute frantic negotiations Tuesday between the Maoists and the other three top parties - caretaker Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress (NC), the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF) - failed to break the protracted deadlock over power-sharing.
The four parties finally agreed to form a committee that will now draft a new common minimum programme after an earlier 50-point agenda tabled by the Maoists was rejected by the others.
There could be a new twist to the ongoing political drama with Koirala calling a surprise meeting of the leaders of the four parties at his residence Tuesday evening.
The caretaker prime minister returned to Kathmandu Monday night after consultations with Indian leaders, including Indian Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Indian opposition BJP's leader Lal Krishna Advani.
Nepal's Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat, who had accompanied Koirala, told the media that the Indian leaders lauded Koirala's leadership and urged for a consensus government in Nepal.
Political analysts in Nepal feel that emboldened by the southern neighbour's support, Koirala, though 83 and afflicted with a failing health, may try to cobble a government under his own leadership.
Even if he doesn't, the Maoists, who had planned to form a majority or even minority government if they failed to woo all the other top parties, will now find it impossible to float a new government unless it is supported by the NC.
Indian ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood met Maoist supremo Prachanda early Tuesday morning, before the parleys with the other parties began.
Sood is believed to have conveyed New Delhi's thoughts on a consensus and national government in Nepal.
There is already growing anger among the Maoists at the failure to form a new government.
Maoist lawmaker Agni Sapkota flayed India at a meeting in Chitwan district in south Nepal Monday, accusing the NC and UML of being under the neighbouring country's control and alleging that foreign powers were conspiring to prevent the Maoists from coming to power.