KATHMANDU, Dec 6: Nepali Congress leaders experienced bitterness at inter-party negotiations held hours after the NC unanimously proposed party President Sushil Koirala as its prime ministerial candidate for the new government, as the UCPN (Maoist) set harsh conditions for accepting NC leadership.
NC leaders were disappointed after the ruling Maoists said at the inter-party negotiations that they could accept NC leadership only after there was a deal on various issues, such as the contents of the new constitution, appointments to constitutional bodies, amendments to election-related laws, provisions in the constitution, and the election date.
Leaders from major parties have sharpened their wrangling over government leadership even as the extended deadline set by the president for picking a consensus prime minister for a new government expires on Thursday.
While the Maoist leaders reiterated their demand for a package deal before finalizing a common prime ministerial candidate, NC leaders insisted on first agreeing on the PM candidate.
NC Vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel said they were betrayed by the Maoists as the latter had been pressing the NC until Tuesday to propose a candidate but changed their stance at Wednesday´s meeting.
"Maoist leaders today set new conditions, saying they would step down from office only after reaching a deal on disputed provisions in the proposed new constitution," Paudel told reporters after the inter-party negotiations Wednesday. "It is yet another ploy by the Maoists to prolong their stay in power."
However, the Maoists argued that they cannot give an NC candidate carte blanc. "We definitely have some conditions because we need some grounds for accepting an NC candidate," UCPN (Maoist) Spokesman Agni Prasad Sapkota told Republica.
According to him, his party has floated five conditions before the other parties. Among other things, the Maoists want to fix the number of seats in the constituent assembly-cum-parliament to be elected.
While the opposition parties accused the ruling parties of clinging to power, Sapkota maintained that the ruling coalition would step down only after the NC convinces it to do so.
Leaders from UCPN (Maoist), NC, CPN-UML and Madhes-based parties were present during the inter-party talks held at UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal´s residence at Lazimpat.
An office-bearers´ meeting of the UCPN (Maoist) held at the Dahal residence earlier in the day had decided to set the conditions. Later, the same conditions were endorsed at a meeting of ruling coalition partners. Leaders from the UCPN (Maoist) and other ruling parties floated the conditions only after that.
NC Vice-president Paudel said that leaders of political parties had no mandate to decide on the contents of the new constitution. "Decisions on the provisions of the new constitution can only be taken by the people´s representatives in the Constituent Assembly," said Paudel. "Political parties and their leaders can´t take such decisions in advance and impose them on the CA."