With only four days remaining for forming a new government supported by all parties in parliament but failing to make any headway in talks with its traditional rivals, Nepal's Maoist party has begun blaming its favourite scapegoat India, accusing the neighbour of trying to prop up a rival party.
The former guerrillas' hope of returning to power after a short-lived government in 2008-09 began to recede as they failed to woo any major party even three days after Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned as prime minister.
Though the Maoists, who won the elections in 2008 but fell short of majority, held talks with the outgoing premier's Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), trying to persuade them to support a new coalition government under their leadership, they were turned down by UML chief Jhalanath Khanal.
'Such a government is not possible immediately,' Khanal told the media after the meeting. 'That's why we need further talks.'
However, with Khanal himself angling for the post, it is unlikely that the Communists will stand behind the Maoists.
The other major party, the Nepali Congress (NC), has also ruled out joining a new government under the Maoists.
Acting NC chief Sushil Koirala has rejected forming an alliance with the Maoists till they dismantle their guerrilla army and paramilitary unit.
Koirala also says his party should lead the new government since both the Maoists and Communists had their chance but made a mess of things.
The republic seems fated to suffer the same stalemate and inter-party squabbles it had been enduring since the fall of king Gyanendra's army-backed regime in 2006.
The indications are that the warring parties will fail to cobble together an all-party government by Wednesday, the deadline given to them by President Ram Baran Yadav.
'If we fail to have a consensus government, we will opt for a majority government,' Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma said.
However, that's easier said than done. Though they are the largest party with 237 seats in the 601-member parliament, to cross the simple majority mark the Maoists need the support of either the NC with 114 MPs or the UML, which has 109 members.
Though 10 fringe parties have said they would support a Maoist-led government, their strength will not help the Maoists cross the 275-mark.
Caught in a bind, the former insurgents have begun blaming India.
'India intensifies wheeling-dealing to make Poudel prime minister,' Maoist mouthpiece Janadisha alleged Saturday.
Former deputy prime minister and chief of the NC parliamentary party Ram Chandra Poudel could be the next prime minister if his party manages to cobble together the magic figure of 301.
The Maoist daily alleged that officials of the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu were trying to influence the parties into supporting Poudel.
The Maoist anger comes after their chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda sought New Delhi's help to save his government from collapsing last year.
Prachanda urged the Manmohan Singh government to send an intermediary when his party faced desertion by its allies.
India, however, declined to do so, terming the quarrel an internal matter of Nepal.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)