Factions in ruling party harden positions and devise strategies to prevail over the otherThe Dahal and Oli factions both held separate meetings on Wednesday to chart out a path forward, with Oli deciding to fight until the last.
The Pushpa Kamal Dahal faction in the ruling Nepal Communist Party seems to have upped the ante against Prime Minister and party chair KP Sharma Oli after calling for his resignation at the ongoing Standing Committee meeting.
The Dahal faction on Wednesday evening held a meeting in Jhamsikhel, which party leaders said was part of a bigger plan to chart out a strategy against Oli.
The meeting, according to Standing Committee member Beduram Bhusal, decided to pile more pressure on Oli to pay heed to the party’s decisions under threat of ousting him based on a majority vote.
This is the first time that 31 out of a total 44 Standing Committee members have stood against Oli, with the next meeting scheduled to convene on Thursday.
Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa who used to stand with Oli in previous meetings also joined Wednesday's meeting. With Thapa in the Dahal’s camp, the opposing faction now has a clear majority in the nine-member Secretariat.
As per the party charter, the prime minister should respect the party’s decision, or else party leaders are free to take a decision based on a majority vote, according to another Standing Committee member who did not want to be named.
“Our bottom line is that Oli should step down by respecting the calls of Standing Committee members,” the member told the Post.
Infighting in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has deepened lately with senior leaders including Dahal, Oli’s co-chair in the party, and senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal and Bamdev Gautam demanding that Oli resign as the party chair and prime minister.
Mani Thapa, a Standing Committee member, said that conflict between the Dahal and Oli factions has reached a tipping point.
“Party leaders said if we continue with Oli, he will ruin everything—the country, democracy and the republic,” said Thapa.
Insiders believe that Oli, who is cornered in the party, could go to any extent to save his position.
Oli was on shaky ground until April this year, when the Dahal faction was already demanding his resignation. But after India in the first week of May announced a road link via Lipulekh to Kailash Mansarovar in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, he came under pressure to respond.
Subsequently, the Oli government published a new map of Nepal depicting Lipulekh along with Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as parts of the Nepali territory. India claims these areas as its own.
As pressure mounts on Oli to step down again from within his own party for his failure on the governance front, he ratcheted up his nationalist rhetoric on Sunday, accusing Delhi and Kathmandu–the Dahal faction for that matter–of hatching conspiracies to unseat him.
At Tuesday’s Standing Committee, Dahal and other senior leaders demanded his resignation. Oli held meetings with President Bidya Devi Bhandari, twice, as the party meeting continued.
The Dahal faction is now concerned that Oli could even take some unconstitutional decisions to save his position.
“He could even go for a midterm election. Oli is for backtracking on all political achievements,” said a Standing Committee member.
The existing constitutional provision does not envision a midterm election–nor dissolution of the House, another of Oli's options.
Insiders say if further cornered, Oli could even try to split the party. The existing laws, however, don’t allow him to do it, but there are already concerns he could introduce an ordinance.
A day after the majority of Standing Committee members demanded his resignation, Oli on Wednesday started his day with a series of meetings with Cabinet ministers and leaders close to him.
According to Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai, Oli “sought help” in the wake of the “attacks” he was facing within the party.
"It is essential to maintain party unity," Bhattarai said during a press briefing on Wednesday. "Options like a Cabinet reshuffle or removing chief ministers can be worked out. If necessary, I am ready to resign as minister."
Over a dozen ministers and Standing Committee members advised Oli to initiate talks with Dahal and other Standing Committee members to find middle ground, rather than going for a confrontation.
According to Bhim Rawal, also a Standing Committee member, Dahal had called a meeting at Jhamsikhel ‘just to learn what was discussed in Baluwatar’.
“The prime minister held a discussion in the morning so the other chair called leaders who were also involved in that meeting to learn what transpired there,” Rawal told the media. “The other chair will also discuss with other leaders tomorrow morning.”
Dahal has called another meeting on Thursday morning with senior party leaders and some other Standing Committee members, according to Rawal.
Leaders close to Oli, however, were not present at the Jhamsikhel meeting.
Insiders said Oli himself was holding a meeting with “his people”, including some Standing Committee members close to him, at Baluwatar while Dahal held his meeting in Jhamsikhel.
An aide to Oli said that the Oli faction on Wednesday evening decided to fight “until the last”.