Nepali Congress, Maoists woo Madhesi parties to head govt

Nepal`s two largest parties, Nepali Congress and UCPN-Maoist, who are in the race to form a new government on Sunday stepped-up efforts to woo the Terai-based Madhesi parties.

Kathmandu: Nepal`s two largest parties,
Nepali Congress and UCPN-Maoist, who are in the race to form a
new government on Sunday stepped-up efforts to woo the Terai-based
Madhesi parties, whose support is crucial for a majority in

The Nepali Congress today held a key meeting with four
Madhesi parties -- Madhesi People`s Rights Forum( MPR), MPRF
Democratic, Terai Madhes Democratic Party and Sadbhavana
Party -- with their combine strength of 80 seats in the 601-
member Constituent Assembly, which functions as the country`s
interim Parliament.

We asked them to support a Nepali Congress-led
government in order to consolidate peace and democracy and
talks were positive, said Ramchandra Poudyal, who has been
named the party`s candidate for the Prime Minister`s post.

The Madhesi parties told us that they will decide on
the issue after holding their meetings, he told PTI.

Nepal`s Terai-based Madhesi parties have decided to
come together to seek a better deal amid the deadlock over
power sharing in a new government.

Nepal`s Terai plains are home to about half of the
country`s 30 million people, and the residents of the region,
are known as Madhesis, who are of Indian origin.

The pro-Terai parties argue that people in the
Madhesi-dominated southern plains have long been treated as
second-class citizens in Nepal, where hill-origin elites
dominate politics, the security forces and business. They have
demanded greater economic and political rights, including more
representation in the state structure.

The meeting was attended by MPRF central committee
member Rameshwor Raya Yadav, MPRF-D president Upendra Yadav,
TMDP President Mahanta Thakur and Sadbhavana Party president
Rajendra Mahato.

We held separate meetings with Nepali Congress and
UCPN-Maoist regarding the government formation, former foreign
minister Yadav told PTI.

We told both Maoist chief Prachanda and Nepali
Congress leader Poudyal that one who favours Madhesi issues
will get our support, he said.

Yadav said both Nepali Congress and UCPN-Maoist have
been asked "to make clear their views on three key issues,
drafting of the constitution, concluding the peace process
and addressing the issues of Madhesi people, including on
autonomy, equal rights to Madhesis, and their proportionate
representation in all government jobs.

Nepalese lawmakers will elect a new Prime Minister on
July 21 following a direction by President Ram Baran Yadav to
form a majority government after they failed to reach a
consensus on a leader.

The Nepal Maoists, who ended their decade-long civil
war in 2006, have claimed the leadership of new government as
it is largest party in parliament with nearly 40 percent of
the seats.

The key alliance partners in the caretaker government,
Nepali Congress and CPN-UML, have ruled out the possibility of
forming the next government under the Maoists` leadership as
the former rebels have not yet laid down arms, managed their
combatants and dissolved their paramilitary organization the
Young Communist League.

Meanwhile, CPN-UML held its key Standing Committee
meeting to discuss the formation of a new government. UML`s
support was crucial to form a Nepali Congress-led government.

Nepali Congress is a key partner in the caretaker
government led by Madhav Kumar Nepal. The Nepali Congress is
expecting reciprocity from the UML this time, sources said.

However, the CPN-UML is divided over whether to form a
government under the leadership of party president Jhal Nath
Khanal or to back the Nepali Congress-led government.

Khanal `s position is said to be weak in the party`s
highest body, which gives Poudyal chance to win support from
the moderate left party, sources said.

Meanwhile, the Maoists have kept it options open on
the crucial issue of the Prime Ministerial candidate as a
strategy to garner support from other parties.

The Maoists are making efforts to either head the new
government or support a "weak Prime Minister" from another
party so that they have grip over the next government,
according to analysts.