Maoists ready to discuss alternative to Prachanda for PM post

Nepal`s Maoists are open to discuss an alternative to party chief Prachanda as their Prime Ministerial candidate.

Kathmandu: Nepal`s Maoists are open to
discuss an alternative to party chief Prachanda as their prime
ministerial candidate, but within their own ranks, a senior
leader has said as the former rebels soften their stance in
the face of a thickening political deadlock.

"We are ready to discuss about the alternative to
Prachanda as prime ministerial candidate from within the
party, but not from outside the party," UCPN-Maoist
spokesperson Dinanath Sharma told a news agency.

His remarks over the issue came in the wake of media
reports that intra-party rift has widened in the Unified
CPN-Maoist over the issue of electing a new Prime Minister.

National daily Republica claimed that serious intra-
party disputes have surfaced in the UCPN-M over the leadership
issue with Prachanda signalling his readiness to allow another
party lead the next consensus government.

Prachanda has said that he was ready to back CPN-UML
president Jhalanath Khanal for Prime Minister, instead of
Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai, an idea opposed by the
pro-Bhattarai faction.

"The party`s decision meant proposing Bhattarai to
lead the government as an alternative. But the chairman is
playing a new game," a party leader was quoted as saying by
the paper.

The Maoists had recently launched a crippling general
strike for a week to press for their demand for dissolving the
present coalition led by Madhav Kumar Nepal and paving the way
for a Prachanda-led government. But, it has now shown
willingness to go for another leader.

The party has also initiated discussions with other
political outfits for an alternative to the present

"The government does not seem to be serious in
drafting the Constitution and completing the peace process but
rather it wants to stick to power for a longer period," Sharma

He also accused Prime Minister Nepal of attempting to
dissolve the Constituent Assembly, rather than forging
consensus with the opposition on key issues.

"He should pave way for forming a national government
by tendering his resignation," Sharma said.

Maoist chief Prachanda has said his party was ready to
dissolve its paramilitary outfit, the Young Communist League,
within 4-5 days and manage the Maoist combatants within four
months, in line with the ruling coalition`s demand before
negotiating for a consensus government.

Sceptical of the assurance, the Nepali Congress
general secretary Bimalendra Nidhi said the Maoists should put
their words into actual practice first.

Sharma, however, clarified that their party had no
"hidden agenda" as suspected by other political parties.

He was referring to fears raised by some parties that
the Maoists, with their militant workers and private army
intact, might never give up power like other Communist

Sharma also accused the ruling alliance of attempting
to derail the peace process under the direction of "foreign
powers" and drag the country into a kind of civil war.

Political observers have said that Nepal might head
into a constitutional crisis if consensus eludes the ruling
alliance and the main opposition on the issue of extending the
deadline of the Constituent Assembly which expires on May 28.

The government has few options -- either to extend the
tenure of the Constituent Assembly by forging a consensus with
the Maoists or to declare emergency and extend the CA`s term
for six months or to dissolve it and go for a fresh mandate.

Drafting a new Constitution, which requires approval
of a two-third majority is not possible without the support of
the Maoists who command more than one third seats in the

No serious dialogue has so far taken place between
the Maoists and the ruling alliance on the issue of the term
of the Constituent Assembly. The deadline to draft the new
constitution expires in less than two weeks.