Veteran communist leader Madhav Kumar Nepal-led CPN-UML today staked claim for forming a new coalition government after securing backing from a key Madhesi party, dashing hopes of Maoist chief and caretaker Premier Prachanda to return to power.
Ending the two-week-long political deadlock, the CPN-UML, which also has the support from the second largest party Nepali Congress (NC), submitted signatures of 346 members from over 20 parties in the 601-strong Constituent Assembly to the House Chairman Subhas Nemwang. A simple majority requires support of 301 members.
The CPN-UML-led alliance's Prime Ministerial candidate Nepal, accompanied by NC's Sher Bahadur Deuba and Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF) leader Vijaya Gachchhadar, handed over the signatures to Nemwang, claiming stake over the next government.
Nepal's party said it has also received "verbal assurance" of support from CPN-United, which has five MPs.
"So far, the UML-led alliance has got support from 351 Parliament members from 22 political parties as we have also got verbal assurance from (5 members) of CPN-United," said CPN-UML leader Shanker Pokharel.
CPN-UML, the third largest party, has 108 seats while Nepali Congress led by former Premier Girija Prasad Koirala has 112.
Maoists, the single largest party with 238 seats, too had been attempting to woo MPRF and other fringe parties to cobble up a coalition of their own to return to power after Premier Prachanda resigned in the wake of differences with President Ram Baran Yadav over the sacking of army chief Gen Rukmangad Katawal.
As 56-year-old Madhav Nepal garnered support to become the next Prime Minister, Maoist supremo Prachanda said the CPN-UML leader managed it with the help of "foreign reactionary" forces, an apparent reference to India whom he had accused of interfering in the country's affairs.
Prachanda, addressing a massive rally organised by the Maoists in the capital, blamed "reactionary foreign forces" and "status quo forces" inside the country for toppling the Maoist-led government over the controversial issue of the sacking of the army chief.
CPN-UML, which was part of the Maoist government, had withdrawn its support to the former rebels after Gen Katawal was fired by Prachanda. President Yadav, however, subsequently reinstated the army chief, much to the displeasure of the Maoists.
Decks were cleared for Nepal to be the Prime Minister after the MPRF, the party which held the key to power with 53 seats in the Constituent Assembly, decided to extend its support to CPN-UML.
Earlier, MPRF Lawmakers were divided over the issue of support to Madhav Nepal's CPN-UML.
Vijaya Gachchhadar, Parliamentary Party leader of MPRF, first submitted the signatures of 35 lawmakers to the CPN-UML, but after some time the Madhesi group's Chairman Upendra Yadav, who was Foreign Minister in the Maoist government, handed over the signatures of the remaining 18 MPs, party sources said.
President Yadav had asked political parties two weeks ago to show majority support to elect a new Premier and form government after they failed to reach consensus on the issue.
Now the process of formation of the new government will start tomorrow, when the Parliament resumes its session.
Maoists have been blocking Parliament's proceedings for more than a week. It is not clear whether the former rebels would allow the smooth functioning of the House tomorrow.