KATHMANDU, Dec 26: The entire debate and discussion on choosing a new prime ministerial candidate has finally come to center on the struggle between two leaders of the ruling UCPN (Maoist), Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, who is also party vice-chairman.
Until a few weeks ago, the negotiations used to be among leaders from the major political parties, such as UCPN (Maoist), Nepali Congress (NC) and CPN-UML. But lately it has narrowed down to discussions within the UCPN (Maoist).
Leaders from the opposition alliance led by NC and UML, who have already fielded NC President Sushil Koirala for the top executive post, have been awaiting the Maoist party´s official decision.
"The ball is now in the prime minister´s court but it will not remain there for long even if he so wishes. It will roll on. How can there be movement over the deadlock without a decision from the Maoists?," Bhim Rawal, UML leader, who was involved in negotiations among the major political parties, told Republica.
According to Rawal, Chairman Dahal had tried to break the deadlock but Bhattarai resorted to threats and Dahal in the end could not come up with a decision from his party.
Lately, Dahal has been lobbying within his party, within the ruling coalition and among other politicians over the issue of nominating a new prime ministerial candidate while keeping options open, but Prime Minister Bhattarai and his camp is firmly against leaving office any time soon, let alone accepting Koirala´s candidacy.
Dahal, at a meeting of his party and also at a meeting of the Federal Democratic Republican Alliance (FDRA), which is headed by himself, said he could accept Koirala´s candidacy if the latter was ready to accept the ruling coalition´s conditions.
But Bhattarai has been insisting that the present coalition should hand over government leadership only after transforming the present government into a national consensus coalition by bringing the NC and UML on board.
Bhattarai has already floated a proposal to nominate Dahal as the next prime ministerial candidate from the party if the NC and UML refuse to join the present government for a brief period.
In response to the opposition parties´ demand that Bhattarai quit his post, Dahal had asked them to name a candidate for new prime minister. Dahal had thought that the NC would not be able to pick a candidate. But, the NC decided on party president Koirala. The opposition parties then asked Dahal for his party´s official decision.
An informal agreement between the major parties agreed on Koirala´s candidature, but Bhattarai not only rejected that at a meeting held the next day but also called a meeting of FDRA, of which Dahal is chief, at Baluwatar, his official residence. Bhattarai also boycotted a meeting of the party´s office-bearers held to resolve matters.
As a result, the rift between Dahal and Bhattarai has widened and the deadlock has been prolonged.
Bhattarai faction leaders have also proposed Dahal for Prime Minister. Dahal, for his part does not want to prolong the deadlock. There is a compulsion for him to take a decision while he has a comfortable majority in the party. But he will be termed anti-federalist if he proposes Koirala and will also be blamed for throwing out a government of his own party. The Bhattarai faction has been projecting Koirala as anti-federalist all along.
The deadlock will end if the Maoists take a decision. The president will only nominate a new prime minister in accordance with Article 38(1) of the Interim Constituent, i.e. at the recommendation of the political parties.
"Dahal is more flexible and is showing eagerness to end the deadlock but Bhattarai remains rigid," Jhalak Subedi, a political analyst, told Republica.