Dahal, Oli sit for parley, say polls probably by May

- TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu

Feb 11, 2017-On the heels of President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s expedited meetings with leaders of political forces, including those from the Madhes-based parties, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal held talks with CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli on Friday, almost after a gap of three weeks. 

The Dahal-Oli meeting, “arranged” by senior Maoist Centre leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha at his residence in Hittiban, dwelt on local elections and dates for the same.

According to Shrestha, talks were held with the focus on announcing dates for local elections by February 19 with an aim to hold first phase of polls by May 20. 

The last time Dahal and Oli had held talks was on January 21 when the former had called a meeting of three major parties at Baluwatar. 

Of late, the governing parties and the main opposition are poles apart on various issues. Dahal’s move of severing alliance with Oli to join hands with the Nepali Congress to form government in August had vexed the UML no end. Dahal returned to power with the support of the Madhes-based parties with the promise that he would address Madhesi concerns through an amendment to the constitution. But the UML has objected to the government move of tabling a constitution amendment bill in Parliament, saying constitution implementation is the need of the hour, not an amendment. 

The main opposition has been exhorting the government to announce local elections and withdraw the statute amendment bill. 

But Dahal has been trying to convince the main opposition to agree on constitution amendment, saying that the Madhes-based parties would not participate in the polls until the statute is amended. 

Friday’s meeting with Oli was part of efforts being made by Dahal to convince the UML for constitution amendment. 

Oli is learnt to have told PM Dahal that his party would have no objection to constitution amendment, provided that the government announces poll dates first.

The UML has been suspicious of Dahal’s motives, particularly after his January 22 statement that he would announce poll dates “within a week” failed to materialise. The government has also assured the Madhes-based parties that poll dates would not be announced until the constitution amendment bill is endorsed. 

This is another reason the UML has been pressing for announcing poll dates first.

UML Vice-chair Bhim Rawal, who was present in the meeting, said that both the government and UML agreed, in principle, that election dates should be announced at the earliest. 

“The prime minister said he only intends to bring all the forces on board and that he has been working on it,” said Rawal. 

Friday’s meeting between Dahal and Oli took place following Shrestha’s several rounds of talks with NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba, 

Morcha leaders Mahantha Thakur, Madhesi Janadhikar-Forum Loktantrik Chairman Bijay Gachhadar, Chief Election Commissioner Ayodhee Prasad Yadav, Rastriya Prajatantra Party Chairman Kamal Thapa in the last two days. 

Published: 11-02-2017 08:28

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