Eye on presidential polls, Congress to meet parties out of ruling coalitionMeeting today will also discuss the vacant home minister position.
In the midst of a growing mistrust between coalition partners over leadership of the Ministry of Home Affairs and other issues, Nepali Congress, the largest party in the House, has called a meeting of parties that are not part of the government.
The meeting is scheduled to be held on Saturday at the Congress parliamentary party office, according to leaders.
After the Supreme Court stripped Rastriya Swatantra Party chief Rabi Lammichane of elected positions in a dispute over his citizenship and he had to give up his ministerial post, the home ministry has been without the minister since January 27. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been overseeing the portfolio since.
But the RSP has been continuously lobbying to regain the ministry’s leadership, saying that it was allocated to the party in a power-sharing deal.
Amid the dispute, the meeting is expected to discuss issues related to the elections of the President. The Election Commission has scheduled the vote for March 9.
According to Congress spokesperson Prakash Sharan Mahat, besides the presidential election, matters like by-election for the one vacant post in the National Assembly and election of the Assembly vice-chair will also be discussed. The meeting will try to forge a common position of all opposition parties on those issues, Mahat added.
The vice-chairperson election is scheduled for Sunday. Leaders at the opposition meeting are likely to discuss the political developments, instability in the government, and the differences among the ruling parties.
The Congress said it would try to forge national consensus on the new president, but leaders from the second-largest CPN-UML, which is a part of the ruling coalition, want their candidate to be elected the head of state as per an agreement reached with CPN (Maoist Centre).
Congress leaders, however, argue that the presidential candidate must be acceptable to all, given the roles of the high office. Prime Minister Dahal and his Maoist party have also stood in favour of national consensus while electing the new President.
After the Congress-Maoist alliance broke up on December 25, a seven-party coalition was formed involving the UML and the Maoists to form the government. The CPN (Unified Socialist) and some other fringe parties are also part of the opposition. However, the parliament secretariat has not declared Nepali Congress as the main opposition since there is debate after the party extended its vote of confidence to Prime Minister Dahal.
On January 10, when Dahal secured the vote of confidence, only two parties in the House voted against him.
A Congress leader said the party will try to gain the backing of the parties who are not in government.
Jagannath Khatiwada, spokesperson for the CPN (Unified Socialist), said the party will stand against the UML’s presidential candidate. But Prime Minister Dahal holds the key to the election, he added.
“Our position is clear: we will vote for a candidate other than the UML’s. Our efforts would be at blocking a UML candidate becoming the President again, as the UML could take a regressive course anytime,” said Khatiwada.