KATHMANDU, Nov 29: As the weeklong deadline given by the president to the parties to nominate consensus prime ministerial candidate expires on Thursday, CPN-UML leaders on Wednesday pressed the Nepali Congress (NC) to pick its prime ministerial candidate at the earliest.
During a meeting with NC President Sushil Koirala and party vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel at the UML headquarters in Balkhu, UML urged NC leaders not to further delay nomination of the party´s prime ministerial candidate.
“They [Koirala and Paudel] briefed us about the progress regarding the issue within their own party and in the inter-party negotiations," UML General Secretary Ishwar Pokharel told Republica. "While reiterating our support to NC, we urged them to take their official decision with regard to leading the new government."
UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal, Madhav Kumar Nepal and party general secretary Pokharel and Koirala and Paudel from NC were present during the two-party talks.
In response, NC leaders tried to convince the UML leaders that they are all set to take a decision as they have settled intra-party dispute on the issue of the party´s prime ministerial candidate.
"Our party will officially announce the candidate for the prime ministerial post immediately after other parties agree to form a consensus government under NC´s leadership," NC leader Arjun Narsingh KC told Republica. "Our party is not making any haste in announcing the candidate because we first want to garner support for NC´s leadership in the new government."
Though the party is yet to formally announce its candidate, NC leaders privy to the development confirmed that the party would field Koirala in the prime ministerial race. "The party is taking time to formally announce Koirala as the candidate as we want to make sure that he gets elected if fielded for the post," said an NC leader involved in closed-door negotiations in the party.
Leaders said while one of the main contenders Sher Bahadur Deuba has already given a green signal to the president by stepping aside from the race, Koirala has taken another aspirant Paudel into his confidence.
“As of now, NC is our priority. Our leaders have already committed during inter-party negotiations to support NC in the prime ministerial race," UML politburo member Surendra Pandey told Republica. "But we may have to come up with other convincing options if NC remains indecisive for long."
According to Pandey, UML leaders made this clear to NC during the talks on Wednesday.
Though UML leaders during inter-party negotiations have repeatedly promised to support NC, UML politburo meeting that concluded on Wednesday, however, remained silent on the issue.
A statement issued after the politburo meeting didn´t mention if the UML would stake claim to leading the new government nor did it disclose if it would support any particular party.
"We decided to keep the option open because it is too early to officially decide whether to support NC because it has not even held a meeting to take a decision on the issue," said Pandey.
The UML politburo also decided to activate the talks-team that the party had earlier formed under the leadership of former Prime Minister Nepal with a mandate to hold inter-party negotiations.