Nepal's lawmakers on Monday rejected Maoist chief Prachanda and his NC rival Ram Chandra Poudyal for the fifth time in the Prime Ministerial elections, plunging the country into a deeper political crisis in the absence of a government.
Fifty-five-year-old Prachanda, a former Prime Minister, managed to bag only 246 votes, with 111 members opposing his candidature.
Poudyal, 65, also failed to touch the magic figure of 301, receiving just 124 votes in favour and 243 against, forcing the House to fix another round of voting for September 5.
Out of the total 563 lawmakers who participated in the voting, 206 members, mostly from CPN-UML and Madhesi parties, remained neutral.
During the fourth round of voting on August 6, Prachanda had secured 213 votes while Poudyal got 122.
The CPN-UML with the strength of 109 and the Madhesi alliance with the combine strength of 84 and other smaller parties had earlier decided to remain neutral.
After the voting, caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said political parties now should forge a consensus based upon the proposal his party floated on Saturday.
Since a consensus appears nowhere in the sight, parties now should give a thought to the UML's primary draft proposal to build a national consensus and complete the pending task of peace and constitution, he said.
He said as a new government could not be formed as yet, the House should think about allowing the caretaker government to present the budget before the parliament for the fiscal.
The Madhesi alliance of four parties -- Madhesi People's Rights Forum (MPRF), MPRF-Democratic, Terai Madhesi Democratic Party and Sadbhavana Party -- had maintained they would back the party that provided a clear roadmap to conclude the peace process and addressed demands of the Indian-origin community from the southern Terai region, including greater economic and political rights for them.
However, the two major parties in the fray have refused to give a clear commitment to the Madhesi parties on declaring the southern plains as a single autonomous region.
The country has been in political limbo since the June 30 resignation of Madhav Kumar Nepal, who is currently heading a caretaker government.
CPN-Maoist, which ended its decade-long civil war in 2006, is the single largest party with 238 seats in the Constituent Assembly, while Nepali Congress has 114 members in the House whose two-year term was extended by one year on May 28.
The first round of voting for Prime Minister was held on July 21 while the second round took place on July 23 and third round on August 2. Both Prachanda and Poudyal had been defeated in all five rounds so far.