KATHMANDU, April 20: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Thursday held a one-on-one meeting as the two parties continue efforts to take their proposed unification to a logical conclusion.
Exact details of what transpired at the meeting, which lasted for over three hours, remain unclear. Party leaders briefed on the meeting said that Oli and Dahal held "open and candid" discussions on some key issues pertaining to the two parties' merger.
The UML and CPN (Maoist Center), which have signed a seven-point framework agreement to become one party, have not been able to finalize the merger due to some ideological and organizational differences.
Maoist Center spokesperson Pampha Bhusal said that the delay is being caused by lack of consensus on the distribution of party portfolios and on the election symbol as well as differing stances on whether or not use the term "people's war" in party documents when referring to the 10-year Maoist armed insurgency. She said that there was a particularly big difference over what shares the two parties should have over the unified entity.
Maoist leaders have been demanding what they call dignified representation in the party. A few partyleaders are even calling for equal representation, meaning that both parties should have an equal number of members in all party executive committees including the central committees. Dahal for his part has also been seeking assurances that he would get a chance to lead the government as per a gentlemen's understanding reached between the two parties before forging their electoral alliance.
Thursday's meeting comes two days after a cross-party taskforce failed to yield any results as the UML rejected a Maoist Center demand for equal representation.
So far, the UML has offered a 30 percent stake to the Maoists in the new party. But some UML leaders have suggested that this could be revised.
UML leader Yogesh Bhattarai said the Maoist demand for 50/50 representation was unacceptable. He said his party was eager to finalize the issues through consensus.
Despite some differences, cross-party leaders said that there is a possibility of consensus if the two leaders showed enough sincerity toward resolving the power-sharing issues.
"The main dispute is over the sharing of power between Oli and Dahal both in the party and in the government. If the two leaders manage to find consensus on these two issues, other issues can be easily settled," said one Maoist leader.