Prime Minister Oli’s parliamentary address leaves his party wonderingThe statement seemed to put a firm end to the gentleman’s agreement with Dahal which said they would take turns to lead the government.
KP Sharma Oli’s statement in Parliament on Sunday has led many Nepal Communist Party leaders to speculate if the prime minister is attempting to put to rest a gentleman’s agreement that he and Pushpa Kamal Dahal had reached in May last year.
“I will remain in office until the next elections,” said Oli, co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party, while addressing the House of Representatives.
According to the agreement, which is already public knowledge, Oli and Dahal would lead the government by turns—two-and-a-half-years each.
When Dahal, the other co-chair of the ruling party, made the agreement public in May, Oli was in New Delhi attending the swearing-in ceremony of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Though Oli had made light of the statement then, it caused quite a commotion, creating new equations in the ruling party that was struggling to assign leadership to its various departments due to factional feud. The department heads were only appointed last Friday.
Oli’s remarks on Sunday follow a semblance of calm in the party.
“I have not seen anyone in this world who has not stepped down from power and position—be they kings, monarchs or elected representatives,” said Oli. “I am also not interested in remaining [in power] after the elections. I urge friends to wait until the elections.”
While one of Oli’s aides, who requested anonymity, said that Sunday’s statement was a message to Dahal, a section of former CPN-UML leaders and most former Maoists in the ruling party believe that the agreement between Oli and Dahal should be upheld.
“In principle, the prime minister should have said that the present government will continue for a full five-year term,” said Ghanshyam Bhusal, a central committee member who has been picked as head of the party’s federal affairs department. “He was referring to those who are trying to destabilise the government.”
According to Bhusal, who is considered to have close relations with senior leader Jhala Nath Khanal, there should be no confusion over the gentleman’s agreement.
“The agreement should be implemented,” Bhusal told the Post.
Oli’s statement came a day after Dahal openly wondered if his former party’s merger with Oli’s UML was a good thing.
“Sometimes, I wonder if we would’ve had more alternatives had we not merged,” Dahal said on Saturday while addressing a programme in the Capital.
Dahal’s statement too had piqued the curiosity of leaders, as it came a day after the ruling party picked chiefs of the 32 party departments.
Those in Oli’s inner circle say that the prime minister made Sunday’s statement on the basis of a new power equation that has emerged in the party.
“The statement is in line with the discussions Oli has held with Dahal in recent days,” the aide to Oli said.
Bamdev Gautam and Ishwar Pokhrel’s appointments as chiefs of two crucial departments—Organisation and School, respectively—show Dahal has reached a compromise, according to leaders.
Earlier, the former Maoists were making a pitch for Narayan Kaji Shrestha as the head of the School Department. Oli was also not keen to let Gautam lead the Organisation Department, for he believed that Gautam had sided with Dahal.
But over the past few weeks, Oli has managed to bring most former UML leaders into his fold, leaving Dahal with no option but to give in.
Former Maoists, however, believe that the gentleman’s agreement should be respected, as the chances of Oli making way for Dahal to lead the government are slim.
“It looks like the relevance of the agreement is over,” said Mani Thapa, a central committee member who has close relations with Dahal. “We doubt Oli will hand over power to Dahal in the present circumstances.”
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