A day after President Bidhya Devi Bhandari asked lawmakers of opposition parties to stake claim for the formation of a new government by Thursday night, Nepali Congress office bearers met today and decided that the party would stake claim for the prime minister's post.

The NC has the backing of CPN-Maoist Centre and hopes to gets the support of Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal's lawmakers. It also hopes to influence lawmakers of the CPN- UML faction led by Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal to help it form the government.

NC Joint General Secretary Prakash Sharan Mahat told mediapersons after the office bearers' meeting that CPN-MC Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal had assured the NC of his party's support in formation of the next coalition government led by the NC.

NC has 61 and CPN-MC 49 lawmakers in the 271-member House of Representatives. NC will need 26 more lawmakers to form a coalition government led by it. JSP-N with 32 lawmakers will play a key role in the formation of the government.

"But the JSP-N is divided on the issue," said Mahat.

The JSP-N faction led by Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato, which has 15 lawmakers who stayed neutral in yesterday's floor test, has yet to decide whether to support a coalition government led by the NC. However, the NC can back on the support of at least 15 JSP-N lawmakers owing allegiance to Upendra Yadav and Baburam Bhattarai.

"We hope that the JSP-N will support us in forming the government by the Thursday deadline," Mahat said.

However if that doesn't happen, NC hopes to influence 28 lawmakers of the UML's Nepal-Khanal faction to resign en masse. In that case, the HoR will be reduced to 243 members and the NC and the CPN-MC will be able to form a coalition government with the help of 15 JSP-N lawmakers of the Yadav-Bhattarai faction.

Mahato, however, warned Yadav against trying to split the party. He threatened him with disciplinary action if he unilaterally backed NC in its bid to form the new government. He said the JSP-N should focus on getting its political demands addressed rather than assisting efforts to form the next government. "The Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli-led government has addressed some of our demands and Oli has made efforts to address the remaining issues. We have to wait and watch."

Mahantha Thakur said the results of his party's talks with the Oli-led government on the party's demands were moving ahead positively.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 12, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.