RAM KUMAR KAMAT
KATHMANDU: After weeks of haggling over the budget, the ruling coalition eventually buckled under the pressure from opposition parties and agreed not to bring the full budget.
Opposition parties, particularly the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, today boycotted a meeting called by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai this morning to discuss the issues related to the budget. However, NC and UML later participated in the meeting which was rescheduled by Unified CPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal for the evening.
The ruling coalition, after almost four hours of intense talks at the International Convention Centre, pacified the sulking opposition, committing to bringing only partial budget. Today's development has averted the possibility of a potential political showdown between the prime minister and the President. However, worries for the ruling coalition are not over yet. Differences between the two sides still persist on the size of the partial budget. The ruling coalition said they would sit again to iron out their differences on the size of budget.
DPM and Foreign Minister Narayankaji Shrestha, who is also the Vice-chairman of the UCPN-M, said if they followed the provision of Article 96 (A) of the Interim Constitution, they would not be able to allocate budget for the new CA elections and army integration. He said they would sit again to reach an understanding on the size of the budget. “We agreed to bring the partial budget not because the government is reduced to caretaker status but because we do not want to do anything that would vitiate the atmosphere of consensus or create confrontation between the PM and the President,” said Shrestha.
Minister for Cooperatives and Poverty Alleviation Eknath Dhakal said the government wanted to bring one third of current fiscal budget, but in the meantime it needed more money for three new ministries that were created only this year, for the combatants who have chosen voluntary retirement and for CA elections slated for November. All the political parties representing the Constituent Assembly, including Mohan Baidhya-led CPN-Maoist, were present at today's meeting.
At the morning's meeting held at PM’s office, Minister for Health and Population Rajendra Mahato had said that the government should bring the budget only through consensus and should not ignore the opposition’s call as it could destroy the atmosphere of consensus, which was more important to frame a new constitution.