Today, Nepal has plunged into a fresh political crisis, after Prime Minister Prachanda fired Chief of Army General Katawal.
Deputy Prime Minister (and Home Minister) Bam Dev Gautam, Minister for Water Resources Bishnu Poudel, Minister for Local Development Ram Chandra Jha, Minister for Industry Asta Laxmi Shakya and Minister for Youth and Sports Gopal Shakya – all resigned from the cabinet after Prachanda’s announcement.
The CPN-UML party withdrew its support of the Maoist-led government.
Other cabinet members who boycotted the decision included the Madhesi People’s Rights’ Forum, Sadbhavana party and CPN-United. Said General Secretary of CPN-United, “Prachanda made the proposal despite opposition from other parties,” adding that the Maoist unilateral decision has thus isolated itself from the rest of the floundering government.
As for General Katawal, he has remained consistently defiant and refused to accept Prachanda’s letter that ousted him, pointing out that the only person who has the authority to fire him is the President of Nepal, Ram Baran Yadav.
Meanwhile, President Yadav rejected the ouster in a letter written to Katawal, calling the Prime Minister’s move unconstitutional. The letter was delivered to Katawal's office late Sunday night and copies were also sent to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's residence. Yadav was the first person elected as president in Nepal, where a centuries-old monarchy was so recently abolished. The army is officially under the president's command, not the prime minister. Yadav is a member of the Nepali Congress, the main opposition party, which has vowed to fight the decision.
Prachanda’s decision came despite domestic and international calls against such a move, including from India, which had repeatedly conveyed its concern over the planned sacking of Katawal. Indian ambassador Rakesh Sood met Prachanda on 26 April for a fourth meeting in ten days. Obviously, those meetings left Prachanda unmoved.
Some political analysts are now characterizing the teetering Maoist government as on the verge of implosion.
This, however, did not stop thousands of demonstrators filling the streets of Kathmandu. Maoist youths waved red flags and rejoiced, declaring a “victory for people’s views”. Other student unions affiliated with the main opposition Nepali Congress paralyzed traffic, (particularly around university campuses), in protest of Prachanda’s “non-constitutional ousting” of Katawal.
The plot thickens as the Maoists flourish their one-party decision-making policy in a country already peeling away from their heavy-handed agenda. Lt.Gen. Kul Bahadur Khadka, the number two in the army and -- according to the Wall Street Journal -- “a confidant of Prachanda”, was named as acting Army chief to replace General Katawal.