RAM KUMAR KAMAT
KATHMANDU: A day after Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala said his party was ready to go either for Constituent Assembly or parliamentary polls, CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal made a similar statement today when he met a group of journalists in the Capital.
The NC and the UML, who were, until a few days, on collision course with the ruling coalition over whether the elections should be for CA or parliament departed from their stance a day after a broader meeting was held with the President.
“Our first priority is a new constitution so we decided not to make the name (CA or parliamentary elections) an issue,” said Dilendra Prasad Badu, spokesperson, NC, “But the current government must go and a new consensus government must be formed.” It is not yet clear whether the NC and the UML would also be interested to revive the CA, settle unresolved issues and promulgate a new constitution.
The ruling coalition kept arguing all these weeks that there was no provision for parliamentary elections in the Interim Constitution and if that happened, it would put republicanism, democracy and federalism in peril. And this argument perhaps struck chord with many. The NC and the UML perhaps also want to change its perception among the public. By agreeing to go for Constituent Assembly elections, the NC and the CPN-UML also seeks to fight ruling parties’ charges of being anti-federalist forces.
“The opposition wanted parliamentary election because in Parliament they can issue whips and control their MPs. We do not want that to happen,” said Sarvendranath Shukla, spokesperson for Tarai Madhes Democratic Party.
Another reason why the opposition parties might have felt the need to gain public support was to mount pressure on Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai to quit. The recent quashing of a writ that sought dismissal of PM Bhattarai made it clear how hard it would be for the opposition parties to remove Bhattarai.
The issues of the new election date, amendment to the constitution, strength of the CA and formation of a new election government could take weeks to settle.
While the ruling coalition may like to maintain the current strength of the CA for their tactical strength, the opposition parties would probably not let that happen. “The size and the term of the CA should be reduced and unsettled issues should be decided through referendum,” said UML leader Bhim Rawal.
UCPN-M has taken positively the new development. “It seems that we are now inching towards an agreement. National and international stakeholders are also contributing to it,” said UCPN-M leader Haribol Gajurel.
He added that if the CA was revived and political parties settle unresolved issues of the constitution, then the five-point deal would apply and the NC would get the chance to lead the government or else there should be a new agreement.
“Our PM has repeatedly said that he would quit the moment when there is consensus on issues of constitution,” Gajurel added.