Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal Tenders Resignation

Update on 28 Aug: Just to let you all know that the election for the new prime minister is underway in the Constituent Assembly as we type this update:

By Ritu Raj Subedi/Ram Prasad Dahal

PM quits after failing to make ‘breakthrough’ in his six and half months tenure.

Kathmandu: Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal Sunday (today) resigned from his post as he failed to make any ‘breakthrough’ in peace and constitution writing. The Maoist non-cooperation, and the intense pressure from opposition and his own party eventually forced Khanal to quit. PM Khanal submitted his resignation letter to President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav at Shital Niwas at around 8:30 pm. His resignation came one day after his self-imposed deadline. He had announced that he would leave office on August 13 if the peace process failed to gather steam by then.

“I resigned from the post for peace and constitution, not coming under the pressure from my party,” Khanal told the media persons after tendering his resignation to the President. He said that he would address the House tomorrow and put forth his views on his resignation. In his resignation letter, PM Khanal mentioned that he quit respecting the spirit of the five-point agreement.

“My relentless efforts for peace, national consensus and constitution writing could not come to fruition during my six months’ stay in office,” PM’s press advisor Surya Thapa quoted PM Khanal as saying in the resignation.

Khanal became Prime Minister on February 3 this year with the support of UCPN-Maoist, Madhesi Janaadhiakar Forum, Nepal and other small parties in the parliament after the UML and the Maoists struck the seven-point agreement. However, Nepali Congress and Madhesi parties opposed the agreement, citing it triggered polarization between Left and non-Left camps. The NC disrupted the House meeting for eighth time, demanding his resignation as the five-point deal inked on May 28 for the extension of Constituent Assembly’s tenure for the second time.

Khanal will address the parliament tomorrow (Monday) specifying the works relating to the peace and constitution writing processes, and difficulties that slowed down the twin historic tasks. PM Khanal was set to announce his resignation in the parliament Monday but he changed his mind as he went to attend his party’s central committee meeting in Balkhu later afternoon. There he expressed his commitment to resign after the CPN-UML’s top guns pressured him to do so immediately.

“Chairman Khanal admitted before the meeting that the peace process failed to make headway in the lack of the needed cooperation from the Maoists,” party publicity department head Pradeep Gyawali told the media persons. Party general secretary Ishwor Pokharel, senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and KP Sharma Oli suggested him to resign without delay. Some CC members also criticized Khanal for ignoring the institutional decisions of the party and failing to project the party’s independent position. In his last ditch efforts, PM Khanal called two rounds of meetings with three major parties and Madhesi parties this morning and evening so that he could secure breakthrough in the peace process but in vain.

The Maoists did not come up to support the PM’s proposal on peace process while NC pointed out its finger toward the Maoists for the breakthrough. At the meeting, Khanal faced the joint voice of the opposition to quit Baluwatar. The three parties again sit at 6 pm. PM Khanal informed the meeting that he arrived at a conclusion to resign as per his commitment to the party’s CC meeting. “There is no need of discussing peace, consensus and constitution since the PM has already decided to resign,” NC leader Minendra Rijal quoted Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda as saying.

Khanal presented his proposal on the integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants at the meeting in the morning. He urged the Maoists, NC and Madhesi parties for forging consensus on the peace process, consensus government and extension of the Constituent Assembly’s tenure but the four-hour-long meeting failed to make any headway.

PM Khanal wanted to secure consensus on modality, norms, number and post adjustment and rehabilitation package for the integration and rehabilitation of the combatants. “The peace process can move towards right direction if the Maoist party comes to consensus on the number of combatants, modality of their integration and rehabilitation package,” Thapa quoted PM as saying.

NC leader Bimalendra Nidhi said that the PM’s proposal lacked details on the integration and rehabilitation of the combatants. “The peace process is his party’s top priority but Maoists are not committed to concluding it,” claimed NC chief Sushil Koirala. Prachanda said that his party would move ahead as per its tactical line on the peace process and constitution writing endorsed by its CC.

According to Nidhi, PM Khanal tried to remove confusion whether a caretaker government could forward the proposal at the parliament to extend the CA’s term or not. But, Prachanda kept mum on the issue while NC chief Sushil Koirala said that since the CA was itself under the ring of doubt because it failed to deliver, it required a lot of discussions and broader consensus before extending its term. At the meeting, the Maoists and NC also staked their competitive claims to the leadership of next government.

PM asked the both parties not make his resignation as a big issue. Madeshi Janadhakar Forum (Loktantrik) chairman Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadhar said the meeting discussed on giving priority to the PM’s resignation along with other topics relating to the peace process.

President asks cabinet to continue as caretaker

President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav Sunday accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal this evening. President Dr. Yadav also asked the present government to work until the new cabinet was formed. The president thanked PM Khanal and his cabinet members for discharging their duty during their term. PM Khanal presented his resignation letter to the President at around 8:30 pm.

Further background:

Khanal in deep dilemma after Maoists refuse to provide lifeline

By AMEET DHAKAL/KIRAN PUN in Republica

KATHMANDU, Aug 13: Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal is in deep dilemma whether to resign on Saturday as he had publicly promised after the UCPN (Maoist) refused to throw a lifeline that the prime minister was so desperately hoping for.

A meeting of the Maoist party’s office bearers held on Friday did not take any concrete decision as expected by Prime Minister Khanal and his close aides on the peace process, nor did it decide to prolong the life of the Khanal government.

Until Friday morning Baluwatar was desperately hoping that the Maoist party would take some concrete decision on the peace process so that Khanal could take it as an excuse to avoid resignation.

The Maoist party, instead, not only skipped any decision on the peace process but also said resignation was Prime Minister Khanal’s “personal decision and the party would neither press him on it nor request him to stay put.”

The prime minister’s aides were scrambling till late evening to interpret the Maoist intention and to speculate how politics will unfold on Saturday, the last day of Prime Minister Khanal’s self-imposed deadline for resignation.

Prime Minister Khanal would have made up his mind to resign on Saturday had the Nepali Congress and Maoists been close to an agreement or even made substantial progress in their negotiations.

Despite several rounds of informal negotiations between the Maoists and the NC, including one Friday morning, the two parties are nowhere close to an agreement. “Our differences continue and I see a slim chance of an agreement in a day or two,” said an NC leader, who is part of the NC negotiating team.

The NC is no less perplexed as to what the Maoists’ strategy could be. “On the one hand, they seem to be in a mood to sever ties with Prime Minister Khanal, on the other, the chances of a peace deal with us still seems remote,” said the NC leader.

Maoists are not as short-sighted not to see the risk of a possible alliance among the NC, UML and the Madhes-based parties if Prime Minister Khanal resigned and if there was no agreement on the peace process.

Why are the Maoists then treading this risky path?

“We are serious about forming a national consensus government under our leadership and it’s our conviction that the NC and the Maoists will agree to it and negotiate with us in earnest to reach a deal on the peace process,” said a top Maoist leader, requesting anonymity.

He also said that his party has lost faith in Khanal government after “Khanal unilaterally decided to resign and tried to reach out to NC with the intention of blackmailing us.”

But Prime Minister Khanal is still hoping that something positive will come up in Saturday’s three-party meeting or at least there will be huge differences between the NC and the Maoists that will provide a pretext for him to stay on.

There is, however, no unanimity of opinion in Baluwatar as well. Though the overwhelming sentiment is that Prime Minister Khanal should not resign on Saturday, some are arguing that defaulting on the public pledge to resign could be too costly for him. “What happens to his image or UML’s image for that matter if he refuses to resign tomorrow [Saturday] but is forced to do so in a week or two?” asked a UML leader.

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