KATHMANDU, May 5: A day after the five-point agreement was struck among major parties for the formation of national consensus government, leaders have stepped up negotiations to form a cabinet likely to have over two dozen ministers.
Parties are mulling to allocate at least four ministerial portfolios to each major parties in the new cabinet led by Baburam Bhattarai. "There had been an agreement to form a small cabinet. But since there are many constituent parties in the United Democratic Madhesi Front, they have asked us to reconsider the number of portfolios," Nepali Congress (NC) Vice President Ram Chandra Paudel told Republica.
Arguing that the demand of the UDMF was ´justified´, Paudel, who is also parliamentary party leader of NC, said they were scheduled to hold further discussions on Saturday to settle the number. "Though we have not yet fixed size of cabinet, it is certainly likely to be bigger than what we had originally planned," he further said.
Earlier, the parties had announced their intention to a small size cabinet of not more than 15 members. Leaders involved in the negotiations after the five-point deal said discussions were currently underway to form a 27-member cabinet.
Sources said the parties planned to swear in at least two ministers each from the UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and CPN-UML by Saturday evening. As they were yet to work out detail on power sharing, the parties were planning to induct remaining ministers "in their share" in due course of time.
A meeting of top leaders of three major political parties - Maoist, Nepali Congress and the UML-and United Democratic Madhesi Front held at the official residence of the prime minister at Baluwatar Friday evening reached an understanding to induct ministers in the cabinet by Saturday evening after the NC and UML said they were yet to hold internal discussions on nominations.
"Our party is yet to hold discussions on who to send to the cabinet. The issue will be settled by tomorrow [Saturday] evening," Krishna Prasad Sitaula of NC said
In the five-point agreement reached late Thursday night, the parties agreed to form a national consensus government under Bhattarai by Saturday. All the ministers in the Bhattarai-led cabinet had announced their resignation with immediate effect as per the five-point deal, Thursday.
.CPN-UML senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal said his party was still discussing on its options. "Our central committee meeting will continue tomorrow [Saturday]. We will disclose the party´s official stance whether to join the government through CC meeting," he said.
Though Nepal claimed that the meeting did not hold much discussion on size and the sharing of ministerial portfolios among parties in the new cabinet, sources said the parties were at odds over power sharing as some parties are staking claims on key ministries.
While Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar has insisted that he would retain home ministry even in the new cabinet and Raj Kishor Yadav of Madhesi People´s Rights Forum-Republica has also maintained that he would not relinquish Ministry of Information and Communications (MoICs). Likewise the Maoists have already staked claim over foreign and energy ministries.
Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, NC President Sushil Koirala, Vice President Ram Chandra Paudel, Senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, General Secretary Krishna Sitaula from the NC, Bijaya Kumar Gachchhadar of Madhesi People´s Rights Forum-Democratic and Mahantha Thakur of Tarai Madhes Democratic Party,were among those present in the meeting.
The leaders also decided to call meetings of dispute resolution sub-committee and constitutional committee to settle various contentious issues of new constitution, according Sitaula.
Meanwhile, NC office bearers gathered at the residence of party president Sushil Koirala in Maharajgunj for internal discussions shortly after the meeting at Baluwatar.
The meeting attended by Vice President Paudel, General Secretaries Prakash Man Singh and Sitaula and some influential leaders is learnt to have discussed party´s leadership in the cabinet and on settling row that exist with Sher Bahadur Deuba faction in the party.