Facing a Saturday deadline, Nepal's Opposition parties on Tuesday decided to cobble up a new coalition government with help from one of Maoists' key former allies and a possible split in another party in attempts to resolve the political crisis triggered by the abortive bid to sack the army chief.
As President Ram Baran Yadav, whose decision not to accept the sacking of Gen Rukumangad Katawal led to Prime Minister Prachanda's resignation on Monday, set the deadline, 21 parties met and decided to form the government under the leadership of CPN-UML that pulled out of the Maoist dispensation.
The parties including Nepali Congress, Terai Madhes Democratic Party, Sadbhavna Party and Rashtriya Prajatantra Party command a strength of over 280 MPs in the 601-member Constituent Assembly.
The opposition alliance is eyeing a majority of the 53 members of the Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF), who are said to be not averse to joining the new coalition even if it comes to a split, political sources said.
The Saturday deadline was set under Article 38 (1) of the interim Constitution which provides for forming a new council of ministers on the basis of consensus, according to sources at the President's office.
Along with their ally Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, the Maoists boycotted the meeting called by the CPN-UML, the third largest party in Parliament.
The meeting decided to form the government under the leadership of CPN-UML by forging consensus among all political parties, said Sunil Manandhar, General Secretary of CPN-United.
"We will also hold consultations with the Maoists regarding the formation of the new government as their cooperation is essential for moving ahead the peace process and to draft the new Constitution," he said.
CPN-UML General Secretary Jhalanath Khanal said there is a proposal among the opposition parties that his party should lead the new government. "We are ready," he added.
He also made it clear that Maoists' cooperation was necessary for "permanent peace" in Nepal.
The Maoists, meanwhile, organised a separate meeting attended by leaders from Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF), Nepal Workers and Peasants Party and Nepal Janata Dal.
Political analysts feel there is a possibility of horse trading as the Maoists are determined not to allow CPN-UML to lead the new government.
MPRF, with 53 seats, has the key to government formation as both Maoists and Nepali Congress-UML alliance are trying to woo the Madhesi party.
Maoist members of the Constituent Assembly also obstructed the Parliament proceedings, asking the President to apologise for his move against sacking of the army chief.
The Chairman of the assembly then adjourned the proceedings as Maoists said they will continue blocking Parliament until the President apologises.
Protests were held today against the Presidential action in Kathmandu and some outer districts.
At least 50 people of a civil society group close to the Maoists were arrested for staging a protest against the President's decision.
Shyam Shrestha, Krishna Pahadi and Devendra Raj Pandey were among the civil society leaders who were arrested from the area near the Presidential house, which is declared as a prohibited zone.
There was heavy deployment of riot police in the capital to avert clashes in the wake of latest political developments.