RAM KUMAR KAMAT/ TIKA R PRADHAN
KATHMANDU: After a series of bi-, tri- and quadri-lateral talks, four major political forces — the Unified CPN-Maoist, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and the United Democratic Madhesi Front — at the stroke of midnight today signed a five- point agreement, clearing the decks for the formation of a unity government.
All the government ministers representing the UCPN-M and UDMF in the incumbent Cabinet led by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai tendered their resignations today itself in order to facilitate the formation of a unity government — a development parties said would ensure the promulgation of the constitution by May 27. Today’s agreement has it that a new unity government will be formed within two days under the leadership of Bhattarai. The agreement also promises to iron out all the issues related to the new constitution, including federalism and forms of governance, within next three days. Any outstanding issue will be resolved through dialogue, reads the agreement.
“A new constitution will be promulgated by May 27. PM Bhattarai will resign and an NC-led unity government will be formed before May 27, which will hold fresh elections within a year,” the agreement reads.
The major forces have also agreed to expedite the remaining tasks related to the peace process as per the past agreements.
The fifth point of the agreement says that political parties 'will hold regular meetings' to accelerate the constitution-drafting process. The agreement was signed by Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, UML Chairman Jhala Nath Khanal, NC President Sushil Koirala and UDMF leader Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar.
NC negotiator Krishna Sitaula told reporters after today's deal that it was yet another positive milestone in the peace process. “I hope that a federal democratic republic constitution will be promulgated within a month,” added Sitaula. Maoist leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha said the parties would try their best to include maximum stakeholders in the to-be-formed unity government.
UML Chair Khanal said it was a 'historic and important achievement' which has raised people’s hope for a new constitution. PM Bhattarai too described today's agreement a historic achievement as he confirmed that he had accepted resignations of all his ministers.
Earlier, when asked if the prime minister would also resign to facilitate the formation of a national unity government, Tarai Madhes Democratic Party leader Hridayesh Tripathi said, “There is no question of prime minister resigning.” Tripathi said the objective of the four-point agreement — that played a crucial role in the formation of a coalition government of the UCPN-M and UDMF on August 28 — was to complete the peace process and drafting of the constitution. "The resignations today came to uphold the same objective," he said.
Asked whether they had agreed on all other issues of the constitution, particularly federalism and forms of governance, Tripathi said the major political forces would intensify negotiations to settle the issues and could even opt to go for voting in the CA, if required.
Earlier in the morning, confusions and blame game — between ruling and opposition parties — shrouded the hope of a unity government. While the ruling coalition parties — UCPN-M and UDMF — kept on saying that NC and UML should join the Bhattarai-led government, the opposition parties argued that Bhattarai government should step down first. UML even accused the ruling coalition of backtracking on yesterday’s understanding of forming a unity government.
Better late than never
• Bhattarai-led Cabinet
• Parties strike deal to form unity govt in two days
• Bhattarai will resign before May 27
• NC will take over before May 27 and will hold
elections after the statute promulgation
• Parties promise to iron out constitution-related issues in three days
• Parties pledge to hold