KATHMANDU, Nov 1: The Central Working Committee meeting of the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC) officially decided to go for fresh Constituent Assembly (CA)-cum-parliamentary election amidst dissent from key party leaders, including Sher Bahadur Deuba, Ram Chandra Paudel and Prakash Sharan Mahat.
Though leaders close to party President Sushil Koirala claimed that the meeting "unanimously decided" to lobby for fresh election by May 2013, other leaders challenged the claim.
NC Spokesperson Dilendra Prasad Badu said no leader registered note of dissent against the "unanimous decision". However, noted NC leader Prakash Sharan Mahat informed that he, former Prime Minister Deuba and party Vice-president Paudel had fervently lobbied for keeping the option of holding election after promulgating the new statute open.
"There is no dispute in holding fresh election but we [Deuba, Paudel and Mahat] were for keeping the option open in case the Maoists express readiness to seal a deal on the new statute based on the May 15 agreement between the major parties," Mahat told Republica. "Our argument is that if we keep the options open, we will have strong grounds for launching anti-government protests."
Koirala, however, remained firm in his stance against CA revival arguing that keeping the options open would only dilute efforts made toward holding fresh election.
According to participants at the meeting, both Deuba and Paudel had lobbied hard for keeping the options open throughout the meeting. "If the options are not kept open, I will register my dissent against the decision," Mahat quoted Deuba as saying. Then, party General Secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula and Spokesman Badu assured that they would incorporate Deuba´s spirit when they minute the decision.
The official decision, however, stated that the political parties have already wasted five months debating over the options even after the demise of CA. "Further prolonging the debate means not holding elections even in May 2013 - six years after the CA was elected in April 2008," read the statement. "Therefore holding fresh CA/parliamentary election is the only appropriate step in favor of democracy, the country and the people."
Also, former finance minister Ram Sharan Mahat said that he emphasized using flexible wordings in the decision so that it would not obstruct consensus with other political parties.
The NC´s official decision has come at a time the party´s top leaders were sharply divided over the two options -- going for fresh polls and reviving the CA. A section of leaders led by Koirala firmly stood for fresh polls while Deuba and Paudel, among other leaders, were for reviving the CA for a brief period to promulgate the new statute based on works accomplished by the dissolved CA and the agreements to be reached prior to reinstating the 601-member CA.
Stressing the need for the present government to make an exit, NC also strongly demanded that the election government be formed under its leadership.
NC has suggested that the new CA-cum-parliament should be elected for a five-year term and that the new body should be mandated to complete the task of constitution writing within one year and then function as a regular parliament for its remaining term.
NC has decided that the new election government would make some decisions through broader political understanding to pave the way for holding election and the first meeting of the new CA would endorse the decisions. Stating that the present government had already lost legitimacy to take decisions having long-term impacts, the main opposition said that the new government should also bring the annual budget.