KATHMANDU, Jan 5: The two main opposition parties -- Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML -- have reaffirmed their decision to form a new government under NC President Sushil Koirala´s leadership while rejecting the ruling UCPN (Maoist)´s proposal to form a new election government under the leadership of a neutral leader.
"We rejected the ruling Maoist leaders´ proposal of finding a neutral person to head the new government and reaffirmed our decision to further strengthen the two-party alliance in the days to come," CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal told reporters after the two-party talks on Friday.
The opposition parties have reaffirmed their position at a time when the seventh deadline given by President Ram Baran Yadav to the political parties to find a consensus prime ministerial candidate expired on Friday.
The standoff between the ruling and opposition alliance has prolonged for months as the opposition parties have demanded immediate exit of caretaker Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, while the ruling parties have rejected Koirala´s candidacy terming him anti-federalist. Lately, Bhattarai and UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal have said they can quit the government if other parties are ready to form an election-government under a neutral leader.
The CPN-UML standing committee meeting earlier on Friday concluded that the new government must be led by one of the major political parties. "The meeting has reaffirmed the party´s previous decision to support the Nepali Congress candidate," read a statement issued by party secretary Bishnu Paudel following the meeting.
Meanwhile, CPN-UML leaders KP Sharma Oli, Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Ishwar Pokharel called on President Ram Baran Yadav on Friday and reiterated the party´s decision that the opposition alliance including NC and CPN-UML were firmly against seeking prime ministerial candidate from outside the major political parties.
Emerging from the president´s office after the meeting, Oli said there is no option other than forming a new government led by a major political party.
According to Bhandari, the three UML leaders during the meeting with the president had reiterated their position on forming a new government led by mainstream democratic forces such as NC and UML and to create grounds for fresh elections. Bhandari said they emphasized the need for "foiling the UCPN (Maoist) party´s plan to impose totalitarian regime in the country without holding fresh elections."
The three leaders had talked to Sushil Koirala earlier in the day. The leaders from the two sides reiterated the same position. "During the talks with NC President Sushil Koirala, Oli clearly termed the Maoist proposal a ridiculous idea," said NC General Secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula.
Though the UML standing committee meeting´s decision to firmly stand in favor of Koirala´s candidacy was unanimous, the three leaders separate initiative to lobby against the Maoist proposal has been construed as an indication of internal divide in the party.
Sources claimed senior UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and Chairman Khanal are comparatively flexible about seeking an alternative to NC President Koirala while some leaders including Oli are dead-set against Maoist proposal.
According to a participant of the meeting, Nepal, who also heads the UML talks team, raised a question over the party´s next move if the Maoists remain adamant against Koirala´s candidacy for long.
"There is no dispute in our standing committee but some leaders asked if we need to think of an alternative to Koirala. Their expression is just a result of worry over the prolonged deadlock," said a standing committee member, preferring anonymity.