PM may renew call to opposition for talks

- BHADRA SHARMA, Kathmandu
PM may renew call to opposition for talks

Feb 6, 2015-

In an effort to bring the agitating Maoist and Madhesi parties on board the constitution writing process, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala is likely to issue another public call requesting the alliance to return to the negotiating table.

Leaders close to Koirala said that the address could be based on the “substantive progress” made during informal talks with the parties that have boycotted the questionnaire formulation process in the Constituent Assembly and announced a series of protest programmes.

Koirala and his representatives have frequently reached out to opposition leaders asking them to restart stalled dialogue. Pressed by President Ram Baran Yadav and civil society members, junior coalition partner CPN-UML, which has been insisting on resolving the disputed issues of the constitution through a vote in the CA, is also supporting the idea lately.

Koirala had earlier reached UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s residence to persuade him to join the constitution writing process, to no avail. The prime minister has been continuing telephone conversations with opposition leaders as part of his initiative to resume dialogue for finding consensus on the disputed constitutional agendas.

“The PM will issue another call to the opposition for talks once informal discussions yield a substantive outcome towards ending the stalemate,” said Law Minister Narahari Acharya.

Koirala has been advised not to issue a call in haste in the context of the agitating parties’ refusal to sit for talks despite his message during a nationally televised address earlier to prioritise talks over street protest. “The call should not be merely a formality,” said Acharya.

The ruling Nepali Congress and UML have asked the 19 agitating parties in the CA to abandon protest programmes before negotiations may be made on the key disputed issues of federalism, forms of government, electoral system and the judiciary.

They have also hinted at slowing down the questionnaire formulation process if the opposition alliance returns to the talks table by calling off agitation. The ruling parties have refused to scrap the Questionnaire Committee as demanded by the Maoist-led alliance.

As a way out, the PM is said to be prepared to put the questionnaire formation process on hold for the time being. According to NC leaders, the decision hinges on support from the UML.

After a joint meeting held at the PM’s residence in Baluwatar on Friday, both the parties said they could consider decelerating the questionnaire formation process if the opposition returns to talks. NC Vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel said there could be another extension beyond the five-day extra time provided to the Questionnaire Committee to draft the questions.

Both the parties have urged the PM to take fresh initiatives to bring the opposition parties to the CA process. “Although questionnaire formulation is an ongoing process, we are ready to adopt utmost flexibility to find consensus on the disputes. We have requested the prime minister to make a fresh call for dialogue,” said Purna Bahadur Khadka, another NC leader.

As an option to resume the talks, second-rung leaders from the ruling parties have suggested reactivating the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led Political Committee. The cross-party panel formed to facilitate the remaining tasks of the peace process remains inactive.

“If the Maoists are really worried about the stalemate and the constitution writing process, Dahal can initiate efforts through the committee,” said UML leader Pradeep Gyawali.

Dahal: Political statement can open door for dialogue

BIRATNAGAR: UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has hinted at the softening of stance by the agitating alliance that he leads, saying that the Maoist and Madhesi parties could sit for dialogue with the ruling parties.   

Talking to media persons at Biratnagar Airport on Friday, Dahal said the opposition bloc was ready for talks if the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN-UML issue a political statement calling for dialogue on the disputed issues of constitution writing.

He said the ruling coalition could issue a political statement if it finds hard to backtrack as the Constituent Assembly has already started the questionnaire formulation process. The former prime minister said the disgruntled parties were open to negotiation if the ruling parties assured them that they will abide by past agreements while drafting the new national charter.

Claiming that the alliance does not have any issues with the number of federal states, Dahal said he did not care whether Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari were aligned with Tarai or Hill states as long as the districts were kept in a single province.

Dahal accused the NC and the UML of trying to corner the opposition. He was on his way to Itahari, Sunsari to orient cadres on the party’s strategy with regard to the ongoing political deadlock. (PR)

Published: 07-02-2015 09:57

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