Nepal`s 2010 marred by political duels

Nepal`s politics retained its grim characteristics till the very end of 2010.

Kathmandu: Nepal`s politics, marked by ugly feuds for power and vertical splits, retained its grim characteristics till the very end of 2010, ignoring a looming crisis only a fortnight away.

The politics of duels continued till the last day of the dying year, with an ethnic party that was the fifth largest two years ago, splitting under a minister.

Industries Minister Mahendra Prasad Yadav broke away from his Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party (TMLP), formed in 2008 ahead of the historic constituent assembly election, to float his TMLP-Nepal.

The new entity claimed to have the support of nine of the 20 MPs owing allegiance to the original party.

Less than a fortnight ago, another Terai party had also suffered a defection.

The Madhesi Janadhikar Forum-Loktantrik, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Bijay Kumar Gachchedar, suffered a setback when the State Minister for Physical Planning and Works Sanjay Shah quit with his supporters to form the Madhes Kranti Forum, an outfit advocating an armed movement, much as the Maoists had in 1996.

Though Shah was sacked from the cabinet subsequently, 2010 has proved to be a bad year for Terai politics with the leaders falling out among themselves and losing track of the movement for plains people`s rights that had empowered them in 2006.

After the fall of King Gyanendra`s government in 2006, the Madhes movement to wrest equal rights for Nepal`s plains residents gathered momentum and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum became a force to reckon with.

The Forum worsted even the Maoists in the Terai during the 2008 elections and became the fourth largest party.

However, its glory dimmed as its leaders fought over power-sharing and Gachchedar split the party to float his own faction.

Today, there are eight Terai parties and over two dozen armed groups in the plains with more mushrooming by the day.

However, the Terai rift is a mere reflection of what is happening in the other major parties.

The Maoists, the largest party in Parliament, are going through another severe internal strife.

Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who led a 10-year war against the state, is now engaged in a sniping battle with his own deputy, Baburam Bhattarai.

During the "People`s War", the two leaders had clashed seriously, leading to Bhattarai`s demotion along with his wife and other supporters.

Though the differences were patched up in view of Nepal`s internal crisis triggered by King Gyanendra`s coup, the two are at loggerheads once again at the end of 2010.

So are the two ruling parties.

The Nepali Congress, the largest party in the ruling alliance, was once ruled with an iron hand by the late prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala.

After Koirala`s death, though his aide and cousin Sushil Koirala won the leadership election, he now faces a severe challenge from Koirala`s former protégé Sher Bahadur Deuba, who has a history of splitting the party.

The party`s ally, the communists, are a divided lot as well with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal at odds with party chief Jhalanath Khanal.

All these fights will come to the fore January 09, when Nepal`s Parliament re-convenes.

It has been six months since the prime minister resigned with the squabbling parties failing to elect his successor.

The new year will show if the parties can bury their differences, form a new government and promulgate a new Constitution by May or drive the country from one crisis to another.