KATHMANDU, Jan 31: The CPN-UML has decided to end the dispute over the chief ministerial (CM) posts in Province 1, 3 and 4 through internal race after a meeting of the party's top guns failed to pick three names from among a long list of hopefuls.
A meeting of UML standing committee members held at party headquarters on Tuesday agreed to postpone the process to select CM candidates until the national assembly elections after various factions staked claimed to chief ministership.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, the latest in a series of attempts to unanimously pick the head of the provincial government, UML Vice Chairman Bamdev Gautam said that there would be last ditch efforts for consensus before holding the elections.
UML's efforts to unanimously select the CM candidates have triggered serious factional feud in the party. The UML and CPN (Maoist Center), which won the elections in six of the seven provinces, have agreed to form governments in four and two provinces respectively. UML has appointed party secretary Shankar Pokharel as CM candidate, while efforts to pick CM candidates in other three provinces have failed to gather pace due to factional wrangling.
"If more than one candidate file candidacy for a provincial parliamentary party leader, there would be a secret vote among the candidates," UML has said in a statement released after the meeting. The statement reads that the party would take adequate measures to maintain transparency and fairness in the election of the parliamentary leader who would be the party's natural heir to the chief ministerial portfolio.
The decision to finalize candidates through internal race is expected to increase the number of hopefuls, adding further uncertainty to already tough selection process. UML leaders said that each province looks set to witness fight between at least two to four hopefuls.
Former ministers Sherdhan Rai and Bhim Acharya have openly projected themselves as favorites for chief minister of Province 1. Rai is close to Oli, while Acharya is close to UML senior leader and former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.
Among five leaders in the chief ministerial fray, Asta Laxmi Shakya and Rajendra Pandey are two strongest contenders for Province 3. Both Shakya and Pandey have cordial relationship with both the establishment and opposition camp in the party.
UML Secretary Prithvi Subba Gurung, a leader close to UML Chairman Oli, and influential leader Kiran Gurung, a confidant of party Vice Chairman Bamdev Gautam, have been seen as possible CM picks for Province 4.
Unlike the UML, Maoist Center is working to select candidates through consensus. There are two leaders each in the races to become party's chief minister in Province 6 and Province 7. Maoist leader and former energy minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi and Naresh Bhandari have been seen as two possible CM picks in Province 6, while Birman Chaudhary and Jhapat Bohara have been seen as possible chief ministerial candidates for Province 7.