Maoists cotton to Congress, as Dahal, Oli size each other upMaoist Centre entrusts Chairman Dahal to make the final call on presidential candidate.
Tika R Pradhan
Even with just four days to go for the filing of nominations for the presidential election, the CPN (Maoist Centre) is still keeping its cards close to its chest. There have been no clear indications about whom it will support as the new head of state, even though the party seems to be inching closer to the Nepali Congress on the issue.
Leaders of the Maoist Centre claim the party will ultimately support a Congress candidate but is still weighing its options. The Congress, according to some Maoist Centre leaders, has proposed that Dahal can continue as prime minister for a full five-year term in return for the Maoist Centre’s support for a Congress nominee for President.
A meeting of office bearers of the ruling party on Monday evening decided to seek national consensus on the upcoming presidential polls scheduled for March 9 till the very end and entrusted party chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal to make the final call.
“Today’s meeting has decided to seek a national consensus even while trying to save the existing ruling coalition,” said Dinanath Sharma, secretary of the party. “And the party trusts the party chair and prime minister to do the right thing.”
Maoist Center Vice-chair and Spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara said the meeting decided to make republicanism, federalism, secularism, inclusiveness and safeguarding of the constitution as well as the completion of the peace process major bases to forge such a consensus.
Talking to reporters after the meeting held at party headquarters in Koteshwar, Mahara said his party was hopeful that national consensus could be achieved by Friday.
As per the election schedule published by the Election Commission, parties will have to file nominations for the presidential polls on Saturday.
Prime Minister Dahal held a discussion with top Nepali Congress leaders on Sunday during which the latter again asked for Maoist Centre’s support in the upcoming presidential election.
On Sunday, CPN (Unified Socialist) chair Madhav Nepal and Janata Samajbadi Party chair Upendra Yadav held talks with the prime minister during which they suggested the Maoist Centre elect the President through consensus. Dahal also met Rastriya Swatantra Party chair Rabi Lamichhane on Monday morning.
Dahal again met Nepal before he went to Koteshwar to attend his party’s office bearers’ meeting.
“It’s the prime minister’s duty to forge consensus. I asked him to take the initiative for it,” Nepal told reporters following his meeting with Prime Minister Dahal at Singha Durbar. “We want strong cooperation. I advised him that we should all go on a long trip together and make attempts for national consensus.”
Meanwhile, UML leaders have been waiting for the Maoist Centre’s decision. Party chair KP Sharma Oli has been telling his party colleagues that the existing coalition may break “as foreign interference has intensified”. He was referring to the recent visit of Indian foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra.
During the the party office bearers’ meeting, Dahal had briefed them that Oli had met Baburam Bhattarai, Unified Socialist chair Madhav Nepal and its senior leader Jhalanath Khanal separately and had told them that the UML would be happy to support any one of them as presidential candidate. Oli, according to leaders, has proposed Nepal to reunite their parties and become the country’s President.
“Oli and Dahal know each other more than anybody else, and each is trying to anticipate what the other is likely to do,” said Ganesh Sah, secretary of the Maoist Centre. “It seems that they both want to build pressure on one another.”
Leader Sah said Dahal won’t accept an active UML leader as President and Oli knows that he would suffer the most from the ruling coalition’s unraveling. “The trump card is now with Dahal, which he will continue to hold for a few more days,” Sah told the Post.
While addressing his party's function at Pokhara on Monday, Dahal said the parties that forged the 12-point agreement in 2005 should join hands during the presidential election as well. According to some Maoist leaders, he was hinting at the Nepali Congress, which was one of the parties to the peace process, while KP Sharma Oli was yet to be the UML chief.
A team of senior Nepali Congress leaders led by party president Sher Bahadur Deuba met the prime minister on Sunday. In attendance were senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel, Vice-president Purna Bahadur Khadka, General Secretary Gagan Thapa and former general secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula.
These meetings have apparently helped lay a strong foundation for a Congress-Maoist Centre alliance.