Despite strong pressure from the leaders to take a firm stance on directly-elected prime minister, the CPN-UML leadership refused to backtrack on the 16-point agreement that proposes House-elected PM as the executive head and a ceremonial President.
The party’s Central Committee (CC) meeting that concluded on Tuesday did not agree to the demand of a majority of leaders stating that it wanted to ensure the promulgation of the new constitution by mid-August as planned.
A section of youth leaders had pressed the UML leadership to stand firm on the party’s previous position of directly-elected PM in cross-party negotiations while finalising the constitution.
The UML, which had been advocating directly-elected PM as the head of government since 2008, abandoned its position while signing the political deal on the contentious issues of constitution-writing last month.
During the CC meeting, party Chairman KP Sharma Oli refused to take up the agenda in cross-party negotiations at the cost of delaying the new constitution.
“We need to have a two-thirds majority in the CA in order to pass all our agendas,” Oli told the meeting, reminding leaders that the party commands only one-third of the votes and it would be better to have a constitution on time.
According to Oli, the UML had to give up its stance to be flexible for an agreement.
“We have compromised several issues in a bid to forge broader consensus amid divergent views.”
The party, however, has not officially dropped the agenda altogether. “The meeting has not taken any decision to this effect,” said UML spokesman Yogesh Bhattarai.
During the CC meeting, the party leadership stressed early promulgation of the constitution. The UML will join hands with all the stakeholders to promulgate the constitution by mid-August, the party said in a statement.
Oli had told the meeting that the strong demand for Hindu state had compelled him to reconsider the issue of secularism. Presenting his 17-point special proposal at the meeting on Tuesday, Oli said conversions and assault on the religious faith of some communities had made him reconsider his decision.
“This sentiment was sensed during public interaction on the constitution draft. Let no one get a chance to capitalise on the sentiment in the name of religion,” Oli wrote in his political document.
The state should have no particular religion; it should be neutral on the matter, and the new constitution must uphold the people’s right to religious freedom, says the document.
Oli has proposed to try and promulgate the new constitution by marking the boundaries of the states but the issue should not be another stumbling block on the road to constitution promulgation.
“It would be nice to promulgate the constitution with the names and borders of federal states,” said Oli, addressing the calls for demarcation. “But the UML firmly believes that issues should not be stirred up in a way to defer the constitution deadline indefinitely.” Oli, however, admitted that the preliminary draft of the new constitution has flaws.
Youth leaders expressed dissatisfaction at the party’s reluctance to take up the party’s original stance despite getting overwhelming public support. “No chief of the major party is confident of electoral victory so it seems impossible to adopt directly-elected PM as long as they are at the helm,” said Bhattarai.
The party denounced the separatist remarks made by some lawmakers while exerting pressure for delineation before statute promulgation. The UML also decided to draw the government’s attention on the India-China agreement to expand their border trade through Lipu-Lekh Pass, the land claimed by Nepal in its Far West. It urged the government to initiate diplomatic efforts to secure the territory.