Nepal`s government totters as new ally splits

The dissidents, led by former minister Jay Prakash Gupta, pulled out in revolt against Foreign Minister.

Updated: May 23, 2011, 16:21 PM IST

Kathmandu: Batting on a sticky wicket since its formation in February, Nepal`s communist-led ruling coalition began tottering on Monday with an ally splitting vertically to diminish Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal`s chances of winning a crucial ballot battle in Parliament in the next five days.

Less than three weeks after it joined the Khanal government, faction-ridden regional party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Nepal) broke up dramatically with the splinter group seeking to register itself Monday as a new party.

With the breakaway group claiming the support of 13 MPs, the party that had brought 24 lawmakers to support Khanal this month is now left with only 11.

The dissidents, led by former minister Jay Prakash Gupta, pulled out in revolt against party chief and current Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav.

While Yadav decided to join the communist-Maoist alliance to bail it out during the crucial Parliament vote, the dissidents opposed the move.

The split comes at a most inopportune time for the prime minister who has to prove two-thirds majority in the 601-seat Parliament this week as he seeks an additional year to complete the task of drafting a new constitution for the republic.

Khanal`s own party has 107 MPs. In addition, he has the backing of the Maoists, the largest party with 234 lawmakers.

He will need nearly 400 votes but is now falling short of the magic figure even though the minor allies will bring in nearly a dozen more votes.

To compound Khanal`s predicament, his own party is now asking him to quit to pave the way for an all-party government, a suggestion that he is resisting with the same tenacity with which he fought 17 rounds of prime ministerial election.

This could mean Khanal`s own MPs either voting against him or skipping the exercise.

The main opposition party, the Nepali Congress that has 114 MPs, has ruled out bailing out the Khanal government during the vote.

The Khanal government needs to amend the interim constitution and extend the May 28 deadline for promulgating a new constitution by one year since it has failed to draft the statute.

A communist government under a different premier failed to accomplish the task in May 2010 and amended the constitutional deadline by an extra year.

The repeated extensions have been drawing flak from civil society with people asking the lawmakers to return to the treasury the salary and allowances they received for three years.