Deal at threat as PM, Dahal rift widens

  • Bhattarai skips party's crucial meet

KATHMANDU, DEC 20 - In a clear manifestation of escalating dispute in the party, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai on Wednesday “boycotted” the party's extended meeting of office bearers convened to discuss Bhattarai's reluctance to leave office.

Party insiders say differences between party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and his deputy Bhattarai has deepened further, posing a serious threat to the planned “package deal” among political parties that will pave way for elections in April-May next year.

The UCPN (Maoist) had called the meeting at 1pm, but Bhattarai did not attend it, expressing his dissatisfaction with the party chairman's pressure to quit office and make way for an NC-led government, according to Bhattarai. Though the PM skipped the meet citing busy schedule, he was in his office in Singha Durbar the whole day.

Some said the PM's move in the afternoon was a payback as the party boss had declined his early request for a one-on-one in the morning.

The 1pm meeting, which took place in the absence of the PM, decided to reach out to the opposition parties to make the April-May elections possible. Some leaders urged Maoist Cabinet ministers to quit the Bhattarai government en masse if “Bhattarai continued to violate the party decision” for an early poll. The meeting entrusted Dahal to hold “serious dialogue” with his deputy and urge him to uphold the party's decision.

“If PM Bhattarai refuses to abide by the party decision, he will face serious consequences,” said Maoist leader and a close aide to Dahal, Haribol Gajurel.  He did not elaborate on the consequences.

Leaders from the Bhattarai faction, however, said the party's first priority should be transforming the incumbent government into a national consensus one and the second to seek a prime ministerial candidate within the coalition should consensus elude for Bhattarai's continuity. A leader close to Bhattarai said Dahal is exerting pressure on Bhattarai to quit, which he said is against the party's decision.

 PM's Political Advisor Devendra Poduel said the party has plunged into a dispute after Dahal tried to hand over the government leadership to the NC without a package deal among the parties. Dahal and Bhattarai are scheduled to hold talks on Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, the feud among the major parties was visible at the President's Office at Sheetal Niwas on Wednesday as PM Bhattarai and top leaders of the three major parties separately called on the head of state. Representatives of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha did not join top leaders of the three parties in 'briefing' President Ram Baran Yadav on the progresses made in Wednesday's talks.

President Yadav 'reminded' Bhattarai of the Cabinet's decision to hold elections within the month of Baishak (April-May) and its announcement to fix a date for polling, based on political consensus. “The President asked the prime minister about the government's efforts to forge consensus,” said President's Press Advisor Rajendra Dahal. “The government and the prime minister should take special initiatives to end the impasse,” Dahal quoted the President as saying.

In an attempt to seal a package deal, leaders of the major parties held informal talks on Wednesday as well. In the meeting, Dahal assured opposition party leaders that the UCPN (Maoist) is committed to hand over the government leadership to the NC after a package deal. According to a leader, Dahal asked NC and UML leaders to make Bhattarai's exit a dignified one.

“He seems confident that Bhattarai's differences will not affect consensus among the parties,” an NC leader said.

Posted on: 2012-12-20 04:00