In a bid to buy more time, Oli dangles prime minister and party chair bait to Gautam and NepalOli, whose position has become tenuous, made the surprise proposal after Secretariat members asked him to step down.
Amid calls from Secretariat members to step down, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Wednesday made a surprise move, offering party vice-chair Bamdev Gautam prime ministership and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal the party chair.
“Once the Covid-19 crisis is over, I will step down; but from this forum, I would like to propose Bamdevji as the next prime minister and Nepal as party chair,” a Secretariat member quoted Oli as saying at Wednesday's Secretariat meeting.
Oli’s such sudden proposal came at a time when his position has become tenuous in the party, as the majority of Secretariat and Standing Committee members have stood against him, asking him to step down.
Oli had been avoiding meetings of both party committees. Only after pressure, he had agreed to a meeting for the Secretariat on Wednesday, which was supposed to set the date for a meeting of the Standing Committee.
But by throwing a new bait, Oli has managed to buy at least three more days. The party has decided to call another Secretariat meeting on Saturday.
“Ishwor Pokhrel and Bishnu Poudel supported Oli’s idea to appoint Gautam as prime minister and Nepal as third party chairman,” according to the Secretariat member.
In the nine-member Secretariat, only Pokhrel and Poudel are on Oli’s side.
Oli’s proposal came immediately after the other chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal spoke at Wednesday’s meeting and asked Oli to step down. Earlier in the meeting, Jahalanath Khanal and Nepal also had sought Oli’s resignation, according to the Secretariat member.
After Oli’s proposal, Gautam, according to the Secretariat member, said he was surprised at the offer and that he, however, could sense that “the prime minister seems ready to step down.”
Gautam, who lost the 2017 parliamentary elections from Bardiya, has for long been demanding some concrete role in the party and the government. He has even made public his desire to become prime minister. And his desire was initially nurtured by Oli and then Dahal. Oli, however, had backtracked on his promise to take Gautam to the National Assembly.
At Dahal’s insistence, a February Secretariat meeting had decided to appoint Gautam to the National Assembly. Oli, however, had refused to nominate him.
Even if he is appointed to the National Assembly, for Gautam to become prime minister, the constitution needs to be amended, as current constitutional provision does not allow a National Assembly member to become prime minister.
According to party insiders, Oli’s sudden proposal to make Gautam prime minister and Nepal the third party chair has more to do with keeping the former UML camp intact. By dangling the bait for his old colleagues, Oli has also tried to drive a wedge between Dahal, Nepal and Gautam.
Party Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Sreshtha, also a Secretariat member, told the Post that the meeting discusses various issues related to the government, the party and recent discontentment among the party members. “The next Secretariat meeting has been scheduled for Saturday,” said Shrestha. “Meanwhile, leaders will continue to hold talks on all pressing issues.”