KATHMANDU, April 28: In yet another twist to the left merger, CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has asked UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli to choose between premiership and party leadership.
During a meeting held with PM Oli at his residence in Baluwatar on Friday, Dahal told Oli that the latter should be ready to hand over party leadership to him if he intends to remain at the helm of the government.
According to leaders briefed on the discussion, Dahal said that the unification was possible only if UML agrees, in writing, to hand over one of the two posts to his party.
They said that Dahal is ready to show flexibility on modality as long as the power sharing is equal and dignified. One such modality, Maoist leaders said, can be allocating two posts between two leaders for 2.5 years each.
Leaders said that Dahal first staked claim to party leadership during the one-on-one meeting with Oli on April 6. The same issue dominated the agenda in three more meetings which lasted over ten hours.
Dahal's demand marks a major shift in stance of the party which had agreed to follow joint leadership. On February 19, Oli and Dahal had struck a seven-point framework agreement agreeing to follow shared leadership. The deal was silent on premiership even as some Maoist leaders claim that Oli and Dahal had reached an understanding to rotate the government leadership between them.
Leaders said that other disputed issues were also discussed during the meeting. They said that other issues would be resolved once a deal is negotiated on power sharing between the two leaders.
Maoist Spoksperson Pampha Bhusal said that there is significant difference over division of power, besides some differing views on the people's war and election symbol. The Maoist Center has demanded dignified representation in the new party. Some Maoist leaders are calling for 50 percent stake in eight executive committees of the unified party.
The two parties also differ on the election symbol and formal recognition of the 'people's war' in the statute of the new party.
UML leaders with knowledge on the issue said that Prime Minister Oli has rejected Dahal's demand for chairmanship.
"Dahal is demanding a guarantee that he will be party chief for a term. It cannot happen even if Oli agrees. It is up to the first general convention to decide the new leader," said a UML politburo member. At least three leaders in UML have been eyeing chairmanship of the unified party and expecting support from Oli.
The UML, however, is willing to give a fair share to the Maoist Center in the new party, leaders said. So far, UML has proposed to give 30 percent stake to the Maoist Center in the unified party.