KATHMANDU, Feb 7: Leaders of Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) on Tuesday tried unsuccessfully to hammer out a power sharing deal for Province 2 as the two tarai-centric parties begun formal talks that could possibly lead to the formation of the only provincial government without the left alliance.
Tuesday's meeting is the first formal discussion between FSFN and RJPN since an electoral alliance of the two parties won majority votes in the parliamentary and provincial polls held in December 7 in the Madhesi stronghold.
During the meeting held in Janakpurdham on Tuesday, leaders of the two parties agreed in principle to form a consensus government honoring the aspiration of the Madhesi constituents to see 'Madhes Sarkar'. But the talks came to a sudden halt as soon as both the parties staked claim over the chief ministerial portfolio.
RJPN leaders stressed on the need of rotating the chief ministerial portfolio and dividing other key portfolios based on individual strength of the two parties. The proposal was rejected by FSFN leaders stating that their party, as the largest political force in Province 2, should get a chance to govern for full term of five years.
Despite the differences, leaders from both sides were hopeful about a deal on the formation of their coalition government. A section of RJPN leaders are willing to give up CM portfolio but insisted that the party should get other portfolio including speaker, deputy speaker and half of the ministries.
"It's too early to tell anything on division of power as talks have just begun. But the differences are bridgeable if the two side show flexibility," RJPN leader Rajendra Mahato told reporters after the meeting.
FSFN leaders have said that the CM portfolio is non-negotiable but said that they are flexible on other issues. They said there would be further attempts to reach consensus as a coalition with RJPN was in the top of their priority list. The two parties had made 'Madhes Sarkar' a key agenda during the elections.
FSFN leaders said that they would look for alternative alliance if RJPN remains adamant on its demand. FSFN Vice Chairman and parliamentary party leader Mohammed Lalbabu Raut told Republica on Tuesday that the party was prepared to consider other available options if talks with RJPN fails to materialize.
FSFN is holding parallel talks with the left alliance to explore possibility of partnership at the provincial and central government.
If efforts to form government with RJPN fail, FSFN will require support of the left alliance to lead government in the province. FSFN and RJPN, the first and second largest parties in Province 2 with 29 and 25 seats respectively, are individually dependent on the support of the left alliance or the NC to form a government. The left has 32 seats, while NC has 19.