High drama in Nepal's ruling party as both Oli and Dahal factions make their moves

There was high drama in the ruling Nepal Communist Party on Tuesday, as factions led by chairs KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal attempted to achieve dominance

Jul 29, 2020

There was high drama in the ruling Nepal Communist Party on Tuesday, as factions led by chairs KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal attempted to achieve dominance.

After Oli postponed the scheduled Standing Committee meeting, Dahal went ahead with the meeting. Both factions alleged each other that their moves were unilateral.

Party insiders said the conflict now has reached a new height.

As many as 29 of the 44 Standing Committee members and two invitee members— Amrit Bohora and Bishnu Pukar Shrestha—were present in the meeting.

The meeting concluded that Oli’s sudden and unilateral decision to stall the Standing Committee was “inappropriate” and against the “party system”.

“Dahal had urged Oli not to stall the meeting, but he took the decision unilaterally. The Standing Committee members have concluded that such a unilateral decision was against the party system and procedures,” said Narayan Kaji Shrestha, party’s spokesperson. “Oli also rejected Dahal and [Jhalanath] Khanal’s request to join the meeting.”

The Dahal faction, backed by senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Khanal, is demanding that Oli step down as party chair.
The Dahal-Nepal faction wanted the Standing Committee meeting on Tuesday at any cost as part of their strategy to employ the majority against Oli.

“By holding the meeting of the majority of the Standing Committee members today, we wanted to give a message that Oli’s unilateral decisions will not work now onwards,” said Gokarna Bista, a Standing Committee member, who is close to Nepal. “We have taken it as the continuation of the ongoing meeting, as it was decided by last Tuesday’s Standing Committee meeting.”

Insiders say Oli’s position has now become tenuous, as he is running out of options. In a desperate bid to save his position, Oli, however, could take some stern measures which could result in a party split, they say.

After the Dahal-Nepal faction convened the meeting at Baluwatar, Yogesh Bhattarai, a ruling party leader and minister in the Oli Cabinet, warned of an accident.

“A disaster is imminent. Let’s exercise restraint. Let’s talk,” Bhattarai wrote on Twitter.

Leaders close to Oli said the prime minister is prepared for “any kind of move” to save his position, including the party split if the Dahal-Nepal faction tried to take action against him through majority votes.

Later in the evening, Oli was pulling out all the stops to secure a majority in party committees as well as the Parliamentary Party.

Oli on Tuesday evening met with vice-chair Bamdev Gautam at the latter’s residence.

On Tuesday morning, Gautam issued a six-point proposal for party chairs to maintain party unity. Gautam has suggested that Oli should lead the government for the full term while Dahal should be handed over chairmanship with full executive power until the general convention. Gautam has also suggested a Cabinet reshuffle.

While speaking at the Baluwatar meeting, Gautam said that Oli had failed to run the party and the government.

Gautam is a crucial figure in the nine-member Secretariat. The meeting with Gautam at the latter’s residence is seen as Oli’ overtures to win over him. A leader close to Oli told the Post earlier on Tuesday that Oli wants a strong commitment from Gautam, as he has flip-flopped in the recent past.

Even though the Dahal-Nepal faction appears to hold a comfortable majority in the Standing Committee, some including former Maoist leaders are fence-sitters, and this gives Oli an edge. Lekhraj Bhatta, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and Mani Thapa, all former Maoist leaders, did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Two Standing Committee members from Dahal and Oli factions told the Post that since Tuesday, internal dispute in the party has deepened further and meetings of both party committees–Secretariat and Standing Committee–have become uncertain now.

A member close to Dahal said Oli has seen Tuesday’s meeting in his own backyard despite his call to postpone it as a big threat.
“Now the message is clear that the Dahal faction can take any decision on majority basis,” said the member who spoke on condition of anonymity. “This has prompted Oli to cultivate some influential leaders so that he can prove his majority in party committees.”

There are concerns in the Dahal-Nepal faction that Oli might take some stern measures such as issuing an ordinance to split the party or dissolving the House.

Standing Committee members close to Oli, however, made light of Tuesday’s meeting, questioning its validity, and the Dahal-Nepal faction’s moves.

“The party will now move towards the general convention as they have decided to hold meetings in consensus with Oli,” said Prithvi Subba Gurung, a Standing Committee member close to Oli. “The general convention should decide the party chair.”


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