RAM KUMAR KAMAT/PRAKASH ACHARYA
KATHMANDU: Talks aimed at narrowing down differences over federalism and forms of governance were overshadowed today by formation of national unity government as UCPN-Maoist broached the issue in the meeting of four national forces — UCPN-M, NC, CPN-UML and UDMF. The leaders gave conflicting details as to when and how the change of guard would take place.
“We today discussed the issues of federalism, forms of governance and formation of national unity government and have reached closer to consensus. The talks have moved ahead positively and we will conclude the issues by Wednesday,” said Unified CPN-Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal after the meeting held at the office of Special Committee in New Baneshwor.
The Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML, who felt outmaneuvered by the UCPN-M’s proposal on federalism, turned the tables on the ruling coalition, seeking Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s resignation, said coalition leaders. “We are ready to form a national unity government within a day of the NC and the UML agreeing on five contentious issues of constitution,” UMDF leader Hridayesh Tripathi, who is also the Minister of Physical Planning and Works, told this daily.
“NC and UML are not in favour of right kind of federalism, and therefore, they have raised the issue of change of guard at this stage,” Tripathi said, adding, “The ruling coalition perceives the NC and the UML’s desire to form a national unity government at this stage when the deadline for the promulgation of a new constitution ends only after 29 days, a ploy to derail the constitution drafting process.”
However, NC leader Ramchandra Paudel said the process of drafting new constitution and institutionalising political changes would be easier if NC led the government before the promulgation of the new constitution. He added that the unity government was not a new agenda but was part of negotiations that began at Hattiban resort.
Paudel said the parties agreed to form national unity government under NC’s leadership. “Maoist leader Dahal and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai themselves proposed national unity government. Congress proposed to form the government at the earliest, as it would hamper the constitution drafting process if delayed. However, the Maoist leaders had proposed to change the government just a few days before the promulgation of the constitution,” claimed Paudel.
Prime Minister’s Personal Secretary Bishwodip Pandey claimed that the top-brass meeting had not agreed to change the incumbent government before promulgating the new statute. “The Baburam Bhattarai led government would continue until the promulgation of the new constitution and only then the NC will lead the government to hold the new general elections,” he said.
UML General Secretary Ishwar Pokhrel said prime minister should immediately resign to pave the way for a unity government.
Congress leader Paudel said the Congress proposed the names and structure of seven pradeshes and the UCPN-M and UML leaders took it positively.
“Congress insisted on not having more than seven pradeshes. However, the issue has not been decided yet,” Paudel said.
UML leader KP Oli said the UML’s official stance was not to exceed the number of pradeshes. Rejecting the 12 pradeshes proposed by UML leader Madhav Kumar Nepal at yesterday’s top-brass meeting, he said, “I don’t know about it. UML’s official voice is that there should be seven pradeshes,” Oli said.
Top leaders of the three major parties and UMDF had held meeting all day today and are to continue the talks tomorrow.