KATHMANDU, July 4: After a hiatus of several weeks, the three major political parties UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress and CPN-UML and the United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF) have begun serious negotiations to drive forward the stalled political process, but there was no progress.
A joint meeting of both ruling and opposition parties held at the residence of Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal at Lazimpat Tuesday evening discussed in detail four key agenda items -- constitution making, formation of a new government, the budget and how to promulgate a new constitution.
Though consensus on these key issues appears elusive for now as the opposition parties insist that the current caretaker government must go first, the parties have shown themselves positive toward the start of serious negotiations among themselves.
“We held discussions on all these key issues. But there was no consensus today. We will continue holding similar discussions in the days ahead to arrive at a consensus,” said MaoistVice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha.
Maoist Chairman Dahal, on behalf of the ruling parties, had floated the four-point agenda for discussion at the meeting, saying the parties should first arrive at consensus on the contentious issues of the new statute before changing the government.
Dahal assured that the Baburam Bhattarai-led government would step down immediately to pave the way for the formation of a NC-led government as per the five-point deal reached earlier among the parties. “We can then discuss ways to promulgate the new constitution. If there is no agreement on reviving the CA, we can go for fresh CA elections under the NC-led government,” Sadbhavana Party Chairman Rajendra Mahato quoted Dahal as proposing to the meeting.
Dahal argued that the revived CA can function as an extended parliament after promulgating the new statute and hold fresh general elections in case of agreement among parties to revive the CA.
But the talks failed to yield any positive results as both NC and the UML insisted that the current caretaker government must step down first. “Since there is no possibility of drafting a new statute, there must be a change of guard first,” a leader quoted UML Vice-chairman Bam Dev Gautam as saying.
Gautam had argued that since there was a slim chance to forging consensus among parties on the essence of federalism, a change of government was necessary to create an environment of trust.
Talking to media persons after the meeting, NC leader Dr Ram Sharan Mahat said the talks failed to make any headway as the Maoists showed no sign of stepping down from the government. “The current caretaker government must first step down. There cannot be any consensus as long as the current government remains in place,” he said.
While NC President Koirala stressed the need to create an environment of trust by changing the current government, Maoist leaders argued that the constitution drafting process should be the priority. They argued that since there was already an agreement to form a NC-led government, the parties should now focus on resolving the contentious issues of the new statue and ways to promulgate the new statute.
On the occasion, Dahal asked the NC and UML not to make the budget an issue for political bargaining. However, NC and UML leaders insisted that the budget should be brought by a new government formed through consensus.