KATHMANDU, April 4: The main opposition parties -- Nepali Congress and CPN-UML-- held common positions on the issues of the peace process for the past five years, but their presentations at the recent Special Committee meetings indicate that they are prepared to tread separate paths.
In recent negotiations at the Special Committee over the peace process, CPN-UML representatives on the committee Ishwor Pokharel and Bhim Rawal presented an uncompromising position on the contentious issues of integration, while the NC representatives either remained conspicuously silent or presented a "compromising" stance on the issues raised by CPN-UML representatives.
"No, we are together. Even during Tuesday´s meeting, we were together in our stances," said Rawal, "But the prime minister´s office is trying to project us in public as holding different positions."
A statement from the personal secretariat of Prime Minister Dr Baburam Bhattarai, the coordinator of the Special Committee, on Tuesday accused CPN-UML leaders of trying to thwart an agreement on the integration plan, a move indicating that the NC and CPN-UML are not together on peace process issues. The statement was in reply to a public allegation by the CPN-UML representatives that the prime minister was trying to backtrack on the understanding reached among the parties Friday to press on with the peace process.
Even during the negotiations on Tuesday night, CPN-UML representative Rawal came out aggressively, pressing the Maoists that each issue of integration should be determined in line with the seven-point agreement, according to Bashaman Pun, finance minister and Maoist representative on the committee. Pokharel and Rawal were also uncompromising at Sunday´s meeting of the Special Committee. Their position prompted a bitter debate between Rawal and another Special Committee member, Jitendra Dev. But NC representatives were either silent or softer over the positions taken by Pokharel and Rawal even at that meeting.
"It seems the NC has taken the present situation very seriously and is prepared for compromise. The NC representatives are presenting themselves at the meeting with creative thinking," said Dev about the NC and CPN-UML position on the peace process in recent meetings. "But CPN-UML leaders have not given up their uncompromising mindset."
NC representative Rijal, however, said they have not compromised on the seven-point agreement signed among major political parties last November. He did not comment on whether the NC has stopped sharing a common position with CPN-UML.
"We have not changed our position though our presentation style in the meetings has changed. We cannot deviate from the seven-point agreement," said Rijal, when asked whether the NC has stopped walking hand-in-hand with the CPN-UML on peace process issues.
An influential leader said NC is aware of the allegation and counter-allegation between the prime minister and CPN-UML representatives.
"Our assessment of the present situation is that the prime minister is trying to create division between the NC and the CPN-UML on our common position. We are mindful of that and will continue to be with the CPN-UML on peace process issues," said the NC leader on condition of anonymity.
Leaders waste a precious day
As the top leaders of the main political parties remained busy in progams of their parties, and bad weather prevented them from returning to Kathmandu on Tuesday, they could not discuss contentious issues of integration
The leaders were supposed to meet informally Tuesday evening to discuss the outstanding issues of the integration, but they could not, leading Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to defer a meeting of the Special Committee secheduled for Wednesday morning to evening.
Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal flew to Rolpa to take part in a program of his party. As the weather played spoilsport, he could not return to the capital on time. He returned only in the late eveing.
Similarly, Nepali Congress leader Sushil Koirala and Madhav Kumar Nepal also remained out of the capital to take part in programs of their respective parties. Koirala was in Dhanusha while Nepal was in Nepalgunj.They could not come back to Kathmandu as the bad weather effected their flights.
"The leaders are coming to Kathmandu in the morning only. They will meet before the Special Committee meeting rescheduled for Wednesday evening," said an informed source.