KATHMANDU, Feb 13: CPN-UML's KP Sharma Oli and CPN (Maoist Center) chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal, whose parties are engaged in a merger bid, have agreed in principle to rotate the leadership of the proposed new party, raising fresh hopes of a unity deal on the left before the formation of the new government.
During a meeting held at a private residence at Manbhawan, Lalitpur on Monday, Oli and Dahal reached an understanding to jointly run the party, according to leaders briefed on the development. However, the two leaders are yet to agree on the exact modality of the 'parallel leadership'.
"There is need for further discussion on the modality of the leadership. What is certain is the two leaders will have equally decisive roles in the merged entity," said UML Secretary Pradeep Gyawali.
Gyawali, who is one of the few leaders briefed on the development, said they are mulling a few possible modalities for parallel leadership.
"One possibility is a co-chair model, and we have also been discussing other possibilities such as the presidium model and the idea of acting leadership," said Gyawali.
Oli and Dahal are expected to further discuss modalities of leadership at their next meeting scheduled for Tuesday. The two leaders are also hoping to reach an agreement on ideology and key portfolios as early as possible. Second-rung leaders of the two parties have been working separately to reach consensus on other issues like ideology, organization and key portfolios.
Monday's development is significant given that the merger process had come to an abrupt halt after repeated failure to break the ice on party leadership.
With Monday's development, most leaders of both parties are optimistic about a framework deal on party unification before the new government is in place, a precondition set by the Maoists for joining the government.
Leaders said the two parties are close on other contentious issues, including ideology and the merger of party organizations. The Maoists have demanded a 60:40 division in party organization and major portfolios, while UML has offered the Maoists a 30 percent stake.
"Maoist leaders have already accepted the 30 percent for power-sharing at provincial level. They will agree to a similar model for division of the power structures in the new party," said a UML leader.
But a section of Maoist leaders said that it was still too early to say that the merger will materialize before the formation of the new government and this was due to UML's silence on the issue of premiership. They said that a merger would depend on whether Oli abides by his prior commitment to rotate the premiership. Besides claiming the party leadership, Dahal has also maintained that he should get a chance to lead in the later half of the government's tenure.
"There should be a package deal on party and federal government to avoid any misunderstanding in the future. That's the party line," said Maoist Center spokesperson Pampha Bhusal.
Gyawali, however, said that issues pertaining to power-sharing in the new government would be finalized separately. He said there has not been any deal on rotating the premiership.
"Our immediate focus is to seal a deal on unity. Other issues would be finalized accordingly, taking the public mandate into consideration," said Gyawali.