KATHMANDU, May 5: A day after top leaders from major political parties inked a deal agreeing to form a national unity government under the leadership of Baburam Bhattarai, most of those airing their views at a Central Committee (CC) meeting of the CPN-UML criticized UML leaders for agreeing to join the Bhattarai-led government and pressed the party leadership not to join.
Some 25 CC members aired their views at the meeting but only three of them -- Mukunda Neupane, Bangshidhar Mishra and Netra Panthi -- saw no harm in joining the Bhattarai-headed coalition. The rest criticized the leaders fiercely.
Most of those who stood against the decision argued that the UML simply cannot join the Bhattarai-led coalition because the party had strongly objected to the four-point pact signed between the UCPN (Maoist) and the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF). Those suggesting the party not join the government include party Vice-chairperson Bidya Bhandari, Ghanshyam Bhusal, Agni Kharel, Bhanubhakta Dhakal, Yogesh Bhattarai and Khagaraj Adhikari.
"The UML voted against Baburam Bhattarai´s candidacy in parliament and he was only elected with votes from UDMF lawmakers; so how come we can now join a government led by Bhattarai himself," said UML CC member Yogesh Bhattarai. "That´s why we strongly believe that our party should not join the coalition."
They also argued that the present government cannot be a national consensus government because it was formed under Article 138(2) of the Interim Constitution that allows for formation of a majority government.
Party Secretary Shankar Pokharel informed that many of those airing their views criticized the party leaders for not insisting on the party´s stance-- that is, forming a consensus government from scratch under Article 138(1). They were for Bhattarai stepping down first and then forming a consensus government.
Another CC member, Ghanshyam Bhusal, ruled out any possibility of the UML joining the government because the party had officially protested against the four-point pact which was the basis of the Bhattarai-led government.
"The proposed consensus government under Bhattarai´s leadership is only a continuation of that Maoist-Madhesi parties coalition. So there is no possibility of our party´s ongoing Central Committee meeting endorsing the proposal to join the government," Bhusal told Republica.
However, according to participants present at the meeting, Mishra and Neupane argued that it would be a blunder on the part of the third-largest party, UML, to turn its back on the historic responsibility of playing a crucial role in constitution writing.
"The five-point agreement is an outcome of the special political circumstances of the country and is the reality," a leader quoted Mishra as saying at the meeting. "We should play a leading and crucial role in constitution writing and institutionalizing the achievements rather than turn our backs on a historic responsibility."
He argued at the meeting that the UML will lose credibility with the public if it shirks its role over major political issues on an excuse of technical issues.
Mishra also argued that there was no point saying the proposed coalition will give continuity to the four-point pact reached with the Madhesi parties because the five-point deal reached Thursday midnight had superceded that earlier pact.
Also, some members at the meeting expressed serious concern over reports that Indian ambassador to Nepal Jayant Prasad was present at the meeting of top leaders including Prime Minister Bhattarai, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepali Congress General Secretary Krishna Situala and other key negotiators involved in signing the deal.
Rumors were making the rounds that the same meeting at Dahal´s residence Wednesday afternoon played a crucial role in giving continuity to the Bhattarai-led government for some more weeks.
"Many members argued seriously that diplomatic missions must remain within their limits and at the same time our leaders also must take diplomatic norms into considerations while dealing with foreigners," said a participant.
Another leader informed that some of the members suggested to the UML leaders not to join the Bhattarai-led government because foreigners were unnecessarily active in salvaging the beleaguered Bhattarai government´s image and giving it continuity.