KATHMANDU, Jan 3: The two major opposition parties -- Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML --have rejected outright the prime minister´s proposal to seek a common prime ministerial candidate other than NC President Sushil Koirala to head the new government.
The two major opposition parties, at a two-party meeting held at the NC party office at Sanepa on Wednesday, decided not to change their mind simply at the behest of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai.
Seeking Bhattarai´s immediate exit, the opposition alliance led by the NC and CPN-UML has proposed Koirala as its official candidate to head the election government.
NC leader Deep Kumar Upadhayay, who was present at the two-party meeting, said that leaders from the two parties reiterated their stance in favor of Koirala and resolved not to become confused by proposals to be floated one after another by either the prime minister or any other Maoist leader.
"There is no point changing our decision because Sushil Koirala is not only our party´s unanimous candidate but also the unopposed leader in the opposition alliance," Upadhayay told Republica. "Also, he [Koirala] has support from leaders of some other political parties as well, including Upendra Yadav."
Prime Minister Bhattarai, at a meeting with CPN-UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal held at the latter´s residence earlier on Wednesday, proposed seeking a new candidate other than Koirala.
A party leader privy to the Bhattarai-Nepal talks said the prime minister was for picking an independent leader to head the election government. "Bhattarai proposed selecting a leader with a political background but independent at present," said the party leader. "Nepal suggested to Bhattarai to come up with an official position of the UCPN (Maoist)."
Former prime minister Nepal later briefed the two-party meeting on Bhattarai´s proposal.
UML leaders then asked the NC team present during the talks if their party was ready to reconsider Koirala´s candidacy or would remain firmly in his favor.
UML Vice-chairman Bamdev Gautam said the UML wanted to be clear about the NC´s latest position. Gautam, however, said his party is firm in its own support for Koirala. According to him, NC leaders said they are not going to change their position just at the behest of Bhattarai.
"We [UML] are not going to change our decision to support the NC president unless the Congress party itself is ready to seek Sushil Koirala´s alternative," Gautam told Republica. "We will not side with the Maoists and betray the NC."
He claimed that the Maoist proposal on an alternative candidate was yet another tactic to prolong the government´s tenure and defer elections. "If we come up with an alternative candidate, it is certain the Maoists will say that candidate is unacceptable to them," said Gautam.
He also said that the latest proposal by Bhattarai was a move cleverly aimed at weakening the opposition alliance.
NC General Secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula said they decided to further intensify bilateral as well as multilateral talks in the next couple of days.
Sitaula said leaders from the two sides vowed to concentrate their efforts on ending the deadlock at the earliest and ensuring new Constituent Assembly elections in the coming spring.
The UML and NC leaders decided to ask UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal about his party´s official position on the candidate for new PM and holding of elections. "We decided to ask Dahal because he is the party chairman and he should tell other parties about the UCPN (Maoist) official position without any flipflops," said Upadhaya.
Bhattarai has repeatedly said in public that his party would never accept Koirala´s leadership of the election government, while Dahal is reportedly flexible in accepting NC leadership on certain conditions.