Common candidate eludes parties with nomination day closeUML continues to lure Madhav Nepal with President’s offer. But Congress leaders confident of securing presidency.
Despite a series of intra-party and inter-party parleys on Thursday, no decision could be made on the presidential candidate. Talks have intensified as the date for the presidential election draws close.
A tripartite meeting between leaders of the CPN (Maoist Centre), Janata Samajbadi Party and CPN (Unified Socialist) on Thursday agreed to decide the presidential candidate only after a joint meeting with the Nepali Congress on Friday. The three-party meeting was held at the Maoist Centre parliamentary party office at Singha Durbar.
A four-party meeting, which included the Congress, was scheduled for Thursday, but was later deferred for Friday.
Pramesh Hamal, the vice-chair of the Unified Socialist, said that the presidential candidate of the emerging alliance would be settled only on Friday. “We will hold a meeting with the Congress tomorrow [Friday] and only then settle on a candidate,” Hamal said.
Prime Minister Dahal is also scheduled to meet CPN-UML chair KP Oli on Friday. “We are talking to all sides. I will also meet UML chair Oli tomorrow,” said Prime Minister Dahal after the three-party meeting.
Despite Congress leaders’ claim on Wednesday that the pre-election Congress-led old alliance would be revived on Thursday, that wasn’t the case. After their meeting with Prime Minister Dahal, who is also the chair of CPN (Maoist Centre), Congress leaders on Wednesday had said they were upbeat about reviving their old alliance and close to an agreement.
Earlier Unified Socialist chair Madhav Nepal also had met Prime Minister Dahal at Singhadurbar. During the meeting, Dahal was accompanied by party leader and Deputy Prime Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha whereas accompanying Unified Socialist chair Nepal was Ghanashyam Bhusal.
After the meeting, addressing the press, Unified Socialist chair Nepal said, “We are discussing various options for the presidential candidate and we will decide based on what is best for the country.”
Meanwhile, UML senior vice-chair Ishwar Pokharel met Unified Socialist chair Nepal on Thursday. Talking to the Post after the meeting, Pokharel said, “We discussed the possibility of our parties joining hands and moving ahead.”
But Janata Samajbadi leader Hamal gave a different account of the meeting and said Pokharel had visited Nepal to offer UML’s support if he agrees to contest for President.
“In response to Pokharel's offer, Nepal said he would agree to contest for President only if the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which was formed through a merger between the then UML and the Maoist Center in 2018, is revived,” said Hamal.
The NCP was dissolved in 2021, following which the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) were reinstated in their former positions while a section of UML leaders led by Madhav Nepal later launched the CPN (Unified Socialist).
Pokharel, the UML senior vice-chair, however, contradicted Hamal’s account and said Nepal did not demand NCP’s revival. “We did not talk along those lines as the resurrection of the former party is an issue unrelated to the presidential election, which provided the meeting’s backdrop.”
Hamal, however, was quick to add that his party would support Madhav Kumar Nepal if the parties forged a consensus on his candidacy.
Meanwhile, Janata Samajbadi Party chair Upendra Yadav also separately met Prime Minister Dahal before meeting the latter along with the leaders of the Unified Socialist.
During his one-on-one with Dahal, Yadav inquired about his own party’s position in a new power-sharing deal in case the old five-party alliance is revived.
“We will definitely want a respectable share in power,” Yadav told the Post after meeting Prime Minister Dahal. Yadav also hinted that his party could appoint the country’s new Vice-president, if the old alliance is revived.
A close aide to Prime Minister Dahal rebutted Yadav’s claim though. “As of now, there has been no discussion on who will get the post of Vice-president.”
Even though Congress leaders appear confident about reviving the old alliance, some party leaders still appear sceptical. “As they say, [we are] once bitten twice shy,” said a Congress leader close to party president Deuba.
On December 25, Congress leaders were confident that the new government would be a continuity of the old five-party ruling coalition. But when Congress failed to agree to the Maoist proposal to make Dahal prime minister for the first half of the five-year term, he ditched the Congress-led alliance and joined hands with the UML.
“This is why, even though our talks with the Maoist Centre are moving in the right direction, we cannot say anything for sure,” said the Congress leader.