The stone-throwing at the airport as Prime Minister Bhattarai departed for and arrived from Rio de Janeiro could point to more serious protests unless Bhattarai reverts back to engaging the opposition. The confrontation, however, may not just be on the streets but also within his own party.
After a month of deadlock following the CA dissolution, the parties were willing to negotiate, but Bhattarai's statement that he would not quit before another election not only irked the opposition but also left his chairman red faced. For now, the party has decided to put the matter to rest but it is no secret that Pushpa Kamal Dahal is getting restive about Bhattarai's growing national and international stature hindering his own ambitions.
Smelling blood, the opposition NC, UML and other assorted parties could be tempted to launch a decisive street protest to bring down the Bhattarai-led coalition that has been weakened by a vertical split in the Maoist party. But the coalition feels it cannot be ousted legitimately in the aftermath of the CA dissolution.
Interestingly, both the dissident Maoists and the opposition have been using op-eds in the mainstream media to label Bhattarai as the next 'Jung Bahadur', so the prime minister must be careful not to let his political stance be misconstrued as arrogance and despotism. He can rest assure that Dahal will not rock the boat for now, he can't afford to.
For their part, the NC and UML who are now campaigning to bring down the government must realise that it was their own lack of vision and irresponsibility that dragged the country into a void from where there is no democratic alternative without holding elections. Besides, the article 38 (1) of the interim constitution that they have been citing does not make a case, as the present government was formed under 38 (2).
Prithvi Subba Gurung of the UML says the opposition including his own party has been behaving irresponsibly by asking the government to resign without offering any alternative. "In what capacity will Ram Chandra Poudel or KP Oli for that matter lead the government?" asks Gurung.
He believes the only option is to either hold new elections or reinstate the old CA for a certain period to pass the constitution. Gurung maintains there is no way the NC and UML can mobilise the people, because the Madhesis, Janajatis and Dalits who represent three-fourths of the country's population are sceptical about their stance on federalism.
Sadbhavana Party leader Laxmanlal Karna of the Madhesi Front agrees that in the absence of a legislature, parties must either go for CA elections scheduled in November by giving the present government a national shape under Bhattarai's leadership or reinstate the CA, which will pass the constitution and form an interim government to hold parliamentary elections.
The dissolution of the legislature has taken away the numerical backing of the Madhesi, Dalit and Janajati leaders for the government, but the strength of the constituency they represent in the streets is still untested. President Ram Baran Yadav, who has so far played his cards close to his chest is under pressure from the opposition to play an active role in ending the deadlock. But Yadav knows this will put his office on a collision course with the government which could set a bad precedence and invite further instability.
The president's political adviser, Rajendra Dahal, told me last week there is no constitutional basis for the president to intervene in executive matters, and the most he can do is appeal to the parties to forge a consensus which he has done on more than one occasion.
For the first time in the history of this nation, an elected assembly had given the Madhesis, Janajatis and Dalits direct access to state power from where they could rewrite their political destiny. But now that the house has been dissolved, the current coalition seems to be in no particular hurry to yield power.
Constitutionally, the government has the mandate to hold elections and cannot be challenged until then. But for the
sake of stability, and to show statesmanship, Bhattarai should begin serious negotiations on forming a government of national unity. Like nature, nations also abhor a vacuum.