Oli to offer party reins to Dahal in exchange for his own men in cabinetThe prime minister, who had long appeared reluctant to hand over party matters to his co-chair, will now allow Dahal to handle party matters.
Tika R Pradhan
Prime Minister and Nepal Communist Party Co-chair KP Sharma Oli, who appeared to have been in a bid to consolidate power despite his weakening health, now seems to have decided to make some concessions.
While Oli is going to keep governance issues with himself through his trusted leaders, particularly Ishwar Pokhrel, who is deputy prime minister, minister for defence and also a party secretariat member, he will allow Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal to look after party affairs.
According to leaders, Sunday’s secretariat meeting, held a day after Oli underwent a third round of haemodialysis in two weeks, revolved around these major issues and concrete decisions are expected after another secretariat meeting to be held in a day or two.
“Both leaders have arrived at some consensus—and conclusion,” said Bishnu Sapkota, Dahal’s press advisor. “We will get to know all the details soon.”
Party insiders said that the prime minister wants to settle outstanding issues related to the government, including a Cabinet reshuffle, and the party before leaving the country for treatment, possibly to get his kidney replaced.
After both his kidneys stopped functioning, Oli had undergone a kidney transplant in 2007 in India.
Though he was said to be doing fine, at the end of October, Oli was suddenly admitted to Grande International Hospital where he underwent two rounds of dialysis in two days.
Oli took office in February last year after his CPN-UML and Dahal’s Maoist party together swept the 2017 elections. In May, the parties announced a merger and formed the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). It was decided that Oli and Dahal would be co-chairs of the new party.
But Oli has faced criticism for running both the government as well as the party unilaterally, much to Dahal’s chagrin. An increasingly cornered Dahal had then brought up a gentleman’s agreement between him and Oli which has it that they will lead the government in turns. Mistrust between the two leaders has grown in recent months, with Dahal trying to court Madhav Kumar Nepal, who enjoys significant clout in the party.
But in recent days, Oli started extensive meetings with Dahal. Last week, he also held hours-long meetings with Nepal and Bamdev Gautam, who Oli has promised to elevate to the post of party vice-chair. Three factions in the ruling party—led by Oli, Dahal Nepal—are so precariously arranged that any of the two getting closer poses a threat to the other. However, according to leaders, Oli has managed to bring everyone together and given clear signs that he won’t run the party unilaterally.
“For now, there is clarity that Dahal will chair the meetings of the party committees,” another member of Dahal’s secretariat told the Post on condition of anonymity.
Nepal is also being brought into the fold, according to party insiders.
Though Oli has agreed to let Dahal look after party affairs, he is planning to install Gautam as the party vice-chair to maintain checks and balances, said Haribol Gajurel, a standing committee member.
“The secretariat has already decided to elevate Gautam to vice-chair, which the standing committee needs to endorse,” said Gajurel.
Plans are also afoot to induct Gautam into the Cabinet by appointing him a member of the Upper House. Gautam lost the 2017 elections from Bardiya Constituency-1.
On the government front, Oli had changed a few secretariat members in order to make it easier for Pokhrel, who will deal with day-to-day governance issues.
Pokhrel, a secretariat member, is Oli’s trusted hand. Oli is planning to appoint those leaders with whom Pokhrel can work easily as ministers, according to leaders.