The race between the Maoists and Nepal’s main opposition party Nepali Congress to head a new national unity government intensified on Thursday amid an August 21 deadline set by President Ram Baran Yadav.

Maoists’ Prime Ministerial candidate Baburam Bhattarai on Thursday met leaders of CPN-UML while Nepali Congress candidate Sher Bahadur Deuba held talks the leadership of Madhes-based political parties to seek their support.

Nepal’s two largest parties – UCPN-Maoist and Nepali Congress -- are currently holding talks with other parties to cobble together a coalition following resignation of Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal last week, but have claimed the right to lead the unity government.

United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), an alliance of five Madhes-based parties, has decided to support national consensus government led by any major party.

The front whose combined strength is around 80 seats in the 601 member Constituent Assembly, can play crucial role in forming the government.

“One who can form a national consensus government will get our support,” said Rajendra Mahato,President of Sadbhawana Party, a member of the alliance after the meeting.

“It is essential to form a national consensus government to complete the peace process and to draft the new constitution,” he said, adding their party would help to form a national consensus government which is the need of the hour.

The deadline given by President Ram Baran Yadav to form a consensus government expires by August 21.

The UCPN-Maoist, which has 238 seats in the Constituent Assembly, is largest party in the Assembly, which acts as the country’s interim Parliament.

The second largest Nepali Congress has 114 members in the House followed by CPN-UML, which has 108 members.

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