THIRA L BHUSAL/KIRAN PUN
KATHMANDU, Sept 9: After weeks-long hiatus, Nepali Congress (NC) leaders have resumed behind-the-curtain negotiations with the CPN-Maoist leaders in a bid to bring the agitating political parties on board the election process.
During the informal talks held at an undisclosed location in the capital on Monday, both sides tried to convince each other of their positions.
NC leaders insisted that the Maoist leaders become ready to participate in the elections to be held by the present government on November 19 while the latter firmly lobbied that the other parties become ready to defer the polls and reach a package deal on other issues from an all-party roundtable conference.
"We emphasized that the Maoist party become ready to participate in the coming election to be conducted under this government while we are ready to maintain maximum flexibility on the rest of the issues," am NC leader involved in the negotiations told Republica requesting anonymity. "But they insisted on deferral of the poll date, change of the government and discussions on the major features of the new constitution in the roundtable conference."
The NC leader said that they couldn´t agree with the Maoists as such a move would be like opening the Pandora´s Box. "Deferring November date is tantamount to delaying the elections indefinitely while change of government and holding discussions on the contents of the new constitution will further complicate the current political deadlock," said the leader.
The NC leader approached the agitating Maoist leaders as NC President Sushil Koirala currently heads the cross-party High Level Political Committee (HLPC) and the Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist leads a 33-party alliance of the agitating political parties. Sources said Krishna Prasad Situala and Minendra Rijal from the NC and CP Gajurel and Dev Gurung from the Maoist party were involved in the ´secret´ talks.
Following the talks, Maoist leaders had briefed their party leaders about the negotiations at the party´s politburo meeting held at Chairman Mohan Baidya´s residence at Dhapasi.
"They requested us to join the election on the scheduled date while we emphasized on poll deferral and taking other political decisions from the all-party roundtable," a Maoist leader present at the politburo meeting quoted Dev Gurung as telling the politburo. "Our emphasis is on holding a roundtable conference because there is no other legitimate body to take any political decisions."
According to the leader, the Maoists argued that the constituent parties of the HLPC -- UCPN (Maoist), NC, CPN-UML and the United Democratic Madhesi Front -- should be ready to defer the polls and find a solution to the present political deadlock in a package.
Asked whether the politburo meeting decided to go for poll boycott or for participation, the leader quipped the time is not ripe for taking such decision.
The leader said that the politburo meeting has decided to give priority to talks to find a political solution.
The party also decided to intensify the protests that the party had already announced.