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Major parties agree to all-party meet, differ on modality and ToR

KATHMANDU: The three three major political parties – Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) – and the agitating Mohan Baidya-led CPN-Maoist have agreed in principle to hold an all-party political conference to settle various contentious issues of the new statute although they are yet to agree on the modality and terms of reference (ToR) of such a forum.

During a four-party meeting held at the official residence of Prime Minister Sushil Koirala at Baluwatar Tuesday afternoon, the political parties agreed to meet again Thursday to settle their differences over the modality and ToR of the political conference, as demanded by the CPN-Maoist, which boycotted the Constituent Assembly (CA) election held late last year.

“We have agreed to sit again on Thursday with the CPN-Maoist after arriving at a consensus among the three major parties on the modality and ToR of the all-party political conference,” UCPN (Maoist) leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha told Republica.

The four parties are at odds mainly over which political parties should be represented in such a conference and what should be the agenda of the meeting and the ToR of such a political forum. While the CPN-Maoist wants the new constitution to be settled through the political conference, NC, UML and the UCPN (Maoist) are against bypassing the CA, which was duly elected through a popular mandate.

The major parties are at odds how to make the decisions taken by the political conference part and parcel of the work being done by the elected CA.

At the outset of the meeting, Prime Minister Koirala proposed forming a Task Force on Tuesday itself and holding the Political Conference on Thursday, as demanded by the CPN-Maoist. But as NC Vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel, General Secretary Krishna Sitaula and CWC member and Law Minister Nara Hari Acharya argued that this would require further discussions, the meeting could not agree on the prime minister´s proposal. UML Acting Chairman Bam Dev Gautam said that his party also was yet to take a formal decision on holding the all-party political conference.

Present at the meeting on behalf of the CPN-Maoist were Chairman Mohan Baidya, Vice-chairman CP Gajurel and Secretary Dev Gurung were. As the major parties themselves appeared divided over holding the all-party political conference, the CPN-Maoist leaders had asked for the common view of the three parties over their demand. The NC, UML and UCPN (Maoist) leaders had then held a separate meeting for over half an hour.

According to leaders present, the meeting, which was not participated by CPN-Maoist leaders, reached a common understanding that their overtures to bring even political forces outside the CA on board the constitution drafting process was a positive move and that they would all stand ready to hold the all-party political conference to address the aspirations and demands of the said outside political forces. The three parties, however, agreed to give continuity to the constitution drafting process at the CA in view of the fast-approaching deadline. They rejected the demand of the CPN-Maoist to stall the process until the political conference was held.

NC Spokesperson Dilendra Badu said the willingness of the CPN-Maoist to participate in the meeting and demand that their views should be included in the new statute was itself very encouraging. “We are also ready to hold the all-party conference as demanded by them. We understand well that the concerns raised by them need to be taken to the CA. We will discuss on Wednesday and Thursday how to take their views to the CA,” Badu said.

CPN-Maoist Secretary Dev Gurung, however, alleged that there was no consensus among the three major parties whether to hold the political conference or not. “We urged them to first reach a consensus within their respective parties on holding the conference. We said that we can then hold discussions on modality and ToR,” he told media after the meeting.

The CPN-Maoist has proposed NC, UML, UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-Maoist as organizers of the conference, with the government making the necessary logistical arrangements. The Baidya Maoists have demanded that the ToR of the Political Conference be forging a consensus among political parties on implementation of various agreements reached in the past and settling of political issues including those seen in the constitution-drafting process.

Likewise, the CPN-Maoist has proposed including all parties in the CA and those in the 33-party alliance led by itself as participants. While all three big political parties are positive toward the CPN-Maoist proposal to finalize the mandate of such a conference through consultations among the parties, the three major parties are opposed to the CPN-Maoist proposal that all decision at the conference should be taken in consensus with all political parties participating therein.

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