KATHMANDU, Nov 3: Leaders from ruling and opposition parties failed to make any headway at a meeting on Friday as the two opposing sides stuck to their respective stances.
UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, on behalf of the ruling coalition, first reiterated his proposal that the opposition parties join the current Baburam Bhattarai-led coalition and transform it into an election-government, while opposition leaders from the Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML insisted that "Baburam Bhattarai is not acceptable to them" and his exit was their precondition for reaching a deal on other issues.
Dahal then asked the opposition parties to offer a prime ministerial candidate from the NC in writing. "Leaders from the NC made it clear right there and then that they would not take time to officially propose a prime ministerial candidate once Bhattarai clears the way," CPN-UML leader Bhim Rawal, who was present at the meeting, told Republica.
The NC leaders had stressed that the prime minister create an environment for floating a name for new candidate by exiting from office first. Prime Minister Bhattarai, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Dahal, NC President Sushil Koirala, CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal and leaders from Madhes-based parties, accompanied by their deputies, were present at the meeting.
Leaders after the meeting. (Photo: Bhashwor Ojha)
CPN-UML Chairman Khanal, General Secretary Ishwar Pokharel and Rawal pressed the prime minister for his immediate exit. "CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and our party Chairman Jhalanath Khanal stepped down in the past, paving the way for consensus, even though both of them had commanded a majority in the then parliament," said Rawal.
NC and CPN-UML leaders argued that they were not obliged to submit the name of the candidate to Dahal. "The Maoist leaders should instead create the ground for nominating candidates by quitting the government," said a UML leader, preferring anonymity.
Finally, the leaders wrapped up the meeting with an understanding to hold the next round of talks only after conducting discussions in the respective parties.
According to Rawal, Dahal also made it clear at the meeting that his proposal to form an election government under Bhattarai´s leadership was not a final stance but an informal proposal for discussions.
"At least there was mutual understanding at today´s meeting that formation of a consensus government has become imperative and all sides agreed to discuss the next candidate in their respective parties," NC spokesman Dilendra Prasad Badu told Republica. According to him, the leaders finally decided to agree on a party to lead the government and "only then would the leaders enter into the agenda item of naming a candidate."
On the budget, the opposition leaders said that they were strongly against allowing the present government to introduce the new annual budget.
"We reminded them that it was the UCPN (Maoist) party that had obstructed the erstwhile government in the then parliament even though that coalition had a majority," said Rawal. "Now, there is no chance of allowing a government that has already lost its legitimacy to bring a new budget, that too through an ordinance."
PM shows flexibility
Leaders said Prime Minister Bhattarai, at the meeting on Friday, showed some flexibility, unlike in the past. "It was for the first time that the prime minister showed flexibility," said Badu. "He told the leaders that he was ready to step down if the parties come up with a consensus candidate."
According to a UML leader present at the meeting, the Madhes-based ruling parties also were quite flexible over the issue of leadership of the new government.