Dahal to command party while Oli will remain prime minister for the full termGiven the growing dissatisfaction within the party and his failing health, Oli was finding it increasingly difficult to manage both the government and the party.
A Wednesday meeting of the ruling Nepal Communist Party secretariat finally decided to give Pushpa Kamal Dahal something he has long demanded—the Nepal Communist Party. Dahal, who was party co-chair alongside Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, will now be executive chairman of the ruling party while Oli will continue in his Singha Durbar office and run the government.
Over the year-and-a-half since the merger of Oli’s CPN-UML and Dahal’s Maoist party to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), Dahal’s push to carve out a bigger role for himself had met Oli’s refusal to make space in both government and party. In recent months, the mistrust between the two chairmen had grown, leading to factional divisions within the party.
Dahal had, on more than one occasion, brought up a gentleman’s agreement he had reached with Oli in May last year. According to the agreement, both leaders would take the government reins in turns. But with Oli bent on unilaterally running both the government and the party, Dahal had been boxed in, with no real responsibility in the party and in government.
After Oli’s health suddenly deteriorated last month, there was a growing concern in the ruling party regarding a possible change in leadership.
“The decision [today] was taken to send a message of stability,” Narayan Kaji Shrestha, spokesperson for the party, told the media after Wednesday’s secretariat meeting. “Both leaders, however, will have the same rank.”
Party leaders described the decision as a significant step, saying it will help solidify party unity.
“The decision, which should have been taken months ago, has finally been taken,” said Mani Thapa, a standing committee member in the party, who represents the former Maoist Centre.
According to Thapa, the decision is in accordance with an agreement reached between the two leaders during the merger—that if Oli led the government, Dahal would look after party affairs.
However, little information was forthcoming as to why Oli had a sudden change of heart, especially as he had shown no signs of loosening his grip on the government and the party until a few weeks ago.
There were multiple factors at work, said leaders.
According to Thapa, there was pressure on Oli from within the party as well as from wellwishers to resolve the ongoing dispute over portfolio management.
“This also forced Oli to let Dahal run the party,” said Thapa.
Over the past few weeks, Oli and Dahal have held a series of meetings, some lasting for hours. Oli has also been talking to senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, his bete noire of late. Nepal enjoys significant clout in the party.
A few months ago, Dahal and Nepal had gotten closer, as both were unhappy with Oli’s working style. In the ruling party, the three factions—led by Oli, Dahal and Nepal—are so precariously aligned that any of the two getting closer poses a threat to the other.
Political analysts who have closely followed leftist politics say that Oli was under pressure to address party dynamics, following Dahal’s increasing closeness with senior leaders like Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal and Bamdev Gautam.
“Dahal by nature cannot stay in second position. If Oli wants the Nepal Communist Party to remain intact, he should either sacrifice the prime ministership or chairmanship,” Shyam Shrestha, a leftist observer and former editor of Mulyankan monthly magazine, told the Post in an interview on Tuesday.
Amid mounting pressure and given his health condition, it was becoming increasingly more difficult for Oli to manage both the government and the party, according to leaders.
“Oli has shown some flexibility in handing over responsibility, following his health problems,” a standing committee member told the Post on condition of anonymity.