| MPs at the meeting of the House of Representatives in in Kathmandu on Friday. (Reuters)
Kathmandu, April 28: The new government of Nepal has committed itself to holding a dialogue with the Maoists, declare a ceasefire and move towards a Constituent Assembly.
Prime Minister-designate Girija Prasad Koirala gave the commitment by tabling a resolution in the reinstated parliament. The MPs present greeted the proposal by prolonged thumping of tables.
Koirala’s health, however, continued to be a matter of serious concern. He could neither attend the parliament nor be sworn in as Prime Minister. It is expected that the 84-year- old Koirala may now be sworn in on Sunday.
Not only was government formation delayed today, the first meeting of the reinstated House of Representatives also began four hours late. Koirala’s illness was not to blame. The seven-party alliance wanted King Gyanendra to correct his order appointing a Prime Minister.
The king had used the principle of single largest party (Article 36 of Nepal’s Constitution) to appoint Koirala.
However, as the Nepali Congress had split since the parliament met last, this was seen as a potential source for instability. The king was asked to re-draft and re-issue his order. He was advised to appoint Koirala on the basis of the “consensus” expressed by the seven-party alliance and not use any specific provision of the present constitution.
The palace issued a modified order late in the evening. Only then did the House begin its proceedings.
The extraordinary meeting of the House of Representatives took place in what was once known as “Gallery Baithak”. Chandra Shamshere Jang Bahadur Rana built it at a time when the Rana Prime Ministers ruled by marginalising the Shah dynasty.
Also used as a Ball Room, this was where the Ranas met non-Hindus, especially the Christian representatives of the British government. The ornate building is now the “Pratinidhi Sabha”.
Today’s meeting was also historic as a woman conducted its proceedings for the first time as its top functionary.
Deputy speaker Chitralekha Yadav was in the chair as Speaker Taranath Rana Bhat had been forced to resign for not joining the democratic movement.
Yadav owing allegiance to the Nepali Congress (Democratic), conducted the proceedings with aplomb. The House began with a two-minute silence in the memory of those killed by the security forces during the agitation.
Yadav, began the proceedings by declaring “people’s power defeated bullets” and reminded the MPs that the movement was for “inclusive democracy”. She urged them to be “sensitive to the great responsibility thrust upon them by the people”. Should they fail, the people would not spare them,” Yadav warned.
She recognised and welcomed the presence of Indian MP Sitaram Yechury of the CPM and D.P. Tripathy of the Nationalist Congress Party in the VIP Gallery. They had supported the democratic movement of the Nepal Democratic Solidarity Committee in India.
The House also “defied” tradition today. No Royal Sceptre was carried into the House to be kept on the royal throne behind the Speaker. But that was just as far as defiance went. The proceedings were conducted using traditional “durbari” or royalist language.
“This business of everything being ‘granted’ by His Majesty’s government did not befit a parliament reinstated through a revolution on the streets. These MPs are back in business as if nothing had happened,” said a Kathmandu veteran familiar with the nuances of “durbari” language.
For the first time, the proceedings were telecast live and journalists had a free run of the House. The could lean over the railing separating them from the MPs and exchange notes on the momentous developments taking place.
While MPs met inside Singh Durbar, people protested outside in large numbers. They shouted: “These leaders are thieves.” Three MPs were chased away by an irate mob.
The Maoists also showed their hand in Kathmandu today by holding a public rally of at least 30,000 at Tudikhel, walking distance from the parliament. They demanded “Loktantrik Ganatanta” (Democratic Republic) and claimed that they would not allow people’s sacrifices to go waste.