Nepali Congress, Maoists woo Madhesi parties to head govt

Nepali Congress, Maoists woo Madhesi parties to head govt 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 Parliament.

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.