Kathmandu: The three major parties of Nepal on Thursday began a fresh race for the top job in the country following prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal`s resignation.
The first off the mark was the opposition Maoist party, whose protracted war on the government from the floor of Parliament, street protests and blockades forced Nepal to announce his resignation in a televised address to the nation on Wednesday.
The standing committee of the former guerrilla party met on Thursday morning to decide that they would make a bid for the new government.
The party formed a three-member committee to open negotiations with the other parties and stake claim to a new government.
Headed by party chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, the committee also includes Prachanda`s potential rivals in the party - his deputy and former finance minister Baburam Bhattarai and Mohan Vaidya Kiran.
However, it may not be easy for Prachanda to saunter back to the chair he was forced to vacate in May 2009 after a fight with his allies over sacking the Army chief.
The other major parties are opposed to Prachanda making a comeback and a section of his own comrades too has been pushing for a change in leadership.
"This is not the time to discuss who will be the new PM from our party," Bhattarai said after the party meeting ended on Thursday. "It has been decided that as the largest party in Parliament, we should lead the new government."
The Maoists might find it tough to win their goal with the Nepali Congress (NC), the second largest party in Parliament after them, having shown a desire to step into Nepal`s shoes.
The NC, whose unwavering support made Nepal weather the Maoist onslaught for over a year, says since both the Maoists and Nepal`s communist party had a stab at running the government, the mantle should now fall on them.
NC leaders will meet in the afternoon to discuss their prospects of leading the new government as well as the contentious question of who would succeed Nepal.
There are three contenders in the party: former prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, whose government saw the Maoist insurgency and human rights violations escalate, former deputy PM Ram Chandra Poudel and senior member Kul Bahadur Gurung.
Nepal`s Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) has also called a meeting of its top leaders to discuss its new strategy.
UML chief Jhalanath Khanal is said to have expressed a desire to succeed Nepal. It was his sharp criticism of Nepal`s government that ultimately pushed the PM into quitting.
President Ram Baran Yadav will be asking the parties to form a consensus government.
However, if the warring three refuse to bury the hatchet, the president will then ask them to prove their majority in parliament and stake claim to the new government.
Thanks to the warring parties, the republic is fast running out of time.
It failed to see a new constitution last month and though the deadline for a new statute was extended by a year, a month has already elapsed without any progress.
It has also failed to decide the fate of over 19,000 Maoist soldiers who have been confined in UN-monitored cantonments since 2006 and are now growing restive.