In ruling party, a cornered Oli yields to Dahal’s manoeuveringsLeaders say realisation has dawned on the two chairmen that there is no option than to reconcile.
Just as concerns were growing among ruling party leaders over a widening rift and trust deficit between the two top leaders, KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal appear to have found common ground.
According to party leaders, the two co-chairmen have finalised after several rounds of talks tentative work divisions for the central members, departments and committees between the leaders of the former CPN-UML and Maoist party.
According to the leaders, the two chairmen will decide the names of heads of 32 departments—18 allocated for the former UML and 14 for the former Maoist Centre—during the secretariat meeting scheduled for Sunday. The two chairmen are expected to zero in on the gentleman’s agreement reached between them in May last year after completing the outstanding works related to the party unification.
While reconciliation between the two top leaders is good for the party, insiders say they were not sure what prompted this.
Many believe the two leaders must have reached some sort of understanding on the gentleman’s agreement.
“The sudden change could be the result of an understanding on moving ahead with the gentleman’s agreement,” said Hemraj Bhandari, a central member who represents the former Maoists.
The agreement between Oli and Dahal, made last year just ahead of the announcement of party unification, has it that both would run the government in turn.
However, it became a bone of contention only recently, when Dahal went public, insinuating Oli should honour the agreement. Just as Dahal kept on bringing up the issue, he tried to cultivate some leaders, especially those from the former UML, prompting concerns in the Oli camp.
“I am not sure what the understanding [between the two leaders] is, but things seem to have changed in the recent days,” said Bhandari.
The growing trust deficit between the two leaders had become a cause for concern among the party members, as it was delaying the unification process and stoking disenchantment in the party rank and file. Leaders had started expressing their anger publicly as well as in party meetings.
“They [Oli and Dahal] were left with no option but to reconcile as further delay in the unification process could have led the party towards disintegration,” said Narayan Kaji Shrestha, a secretariat member.
According to multiple leaders the Post spoke to, Dahal in recent months had been involved in subtle manoeuverings, as he was increasingly getting concerned over his diminished role in the party, while Oli continued to run the government unilaterally.
Dahal had even intensified meetings with several leaders from the former UML, including Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal, especially at a time when Oli was travelling abroad.
A central member who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Post that Oli, who has been facing widespread criticism for his administration’s failure and some controversial decisions, was finding it hard to maintain his influence. Even senior leaders like Madhav Kumar Nepal appeared to have been siding with Dahal, the leader said.
Oli, according to the leader, had to make a deal with Dahal as he feared Dahal-Nepal bond would relegate his camp to the minority.
“Actually Oli wanted to have his hold in all the party committees, bypassing Nepal which led to the delay in unification works for more than a year,” said Bishnu Rijal, a central member close to Nepal. “But ultimately he could not resist as he had only two options left—either to move ahead hand-in-hand with Nepal or face the consequences in the event of a unity between Dahal and Nepal.”
When Oli became prime minister and led a unified party, he appeared invincible—he enjoyed majority both in Parliament and the party.
But one year since the unification announcement, he feels cornered, largely after Dahal started flexing his muscles.
“Oli, by his own admission, was compelled to move ahead with the remaining tasks of unification because he was beset from all sides,” said Ghanashyam Bhusal, a standing committee member who recently held an hours-long meeting with Oli. “Oli was under such tremendous pressure that he was not in a position to refuse [Bamdev] Gautam as the chief of organisational department.”
After the discussions on Thursday and Friday to finalise the 18 departments that were under the former UML, six secretariat members—Oli, Nepal, Khanal, Bamdev Gautam, Ishwar Pokhrel and Bishnu Poudel—have agreed that Nepal will lead the International Department, and Gautam the Organisational Department, while Khanal will lead the party’s Policy and Research Department.
Earlier, Oli was averse to letting Gautam lead the Organisation Department and wanted Ram Bahadur Thapa instead.
Gautam, a long-time rival of Oli, is considered to have close relations with Dahal.
But no matter what, according to a leader, the two leaders coming together is a good sign for the party. If there is any hidden motive, then it’s a cause for concern.
“The conflict between them emanated from the intent to be in power; to be in control,” said Bhandari. “It’s good that the party is moving towards completing the unification process. But the leaders must keep in mind they should rise above their personal interest and work in the party’s larger interest.”
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