Factions fail to see eye to eye, leaving Oli in a tenuous position in the ruling partyAfter failing to reach a deal with the Madhav Nepal faction, Oli will now face the Secretariat and the Standing Committee, both of which are allied against him.
Marathon meetings between the various factions in the Nepal Communist Party on Monday failed to find common ground, indicating that the ongoing tumult within the ruling party is likely to continue.
After a failure to reach a deal among former UML leaders, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is now under great pressure to confront party leaders at the coming Secretariat and Standing Committee meetings.
According to insiders, senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal now holds the key, as party chair Oli is in a minority among the party’s lawmakers and has also lost his grip on both the Secretariat and the Standing Committee.
In a bid to strike a deal with Nepal, Oli’s representatives on Monday held hours-long talks with the Nepal faction.
“We clearly told Oli’s side that the onus for a way out of the current crisis lies on the prime minister,” said Raghuji Pant, a Standing Committee member who was representing the Nepal side at the meeting.
Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, party general secretary Bishnu Poudel, Standing Committee members Shankar Pokhrel and Pradip Gyawali from Oli’s side, and Standing Committee members Surendra Pandey, Bhim Rawal and Pant were present at the meeting from Nepal’s side.
The Oli faction proposed calling meetings of the Secretariat and Standing Committee only after resolving the ongoing dispute in the party, but the Nepal faction rejected the proposal.
“They [the Oli faction] did not come up with any concrete proposal for a power-sharing deal, so our side stressed that they call a meeting of the Secretariat and the Standing Committee,” said Beduram Bhusal, a Standing Committee member who has close relations with Nepal, although he was not present at the meeting.
A meeting of the Secretariat will now be held on Tuesday, which will decide the date for the Standing Committee meeting.
Despite his failure to deliver on the governance front, Oli had not been pulled up by party leaders in the last two-and-a-half years of his tenure. But Oli got more than he bargained for by pushing through two ordinances last week.
As though pressure from the faction led by the other party chair, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, was not enough, Oli was roundly censured by his former UML comrades, including Nepal, Bamdev Gautam and Jhala Nath Khanal.
Ever since he was forced to withdraw the two controversial ordinances, Oli has been trying to convince Nepal using his two confidantes—Ishwar Pokhrel and Shanker Pokhrel.
Pressure is now mounting on Oli to choose between the prime ministership and party chair. Oli, according to leaders, is prepared to hand over the party reins to Nepal, but will not be stepping down as prime minister.
Nepal has long vocalised his support for the ‘one person, one responsibility’ doctrine in the party.
Nepal might have suddenly become crucial in intra-party dynamics but he is also caught between the two chairs.
The Dahal faction is already suspicious of Nepal over his hours-long meetings with the Oli faction. Nepal is under pressure from leaders in his faction to not upset Dahal.
Dahal, according to leaders close to him, has no desire for becoming the prime minister and that he would be happy to offer the post to Nepal if he gets to run the party single-handedly.
All three factions in the ruling party have now started a headcount.
In the 174-strong Parliamentary Party, 121 Members of Parliament are from the former UML while 53 are from the former Maoist party. While Dahal appears confident of support from his 53 members, the 121 former UML lawmakers are largely divided between Oli and Nepal.
Oli’s failure to take Nepal into confidence could mean losing the post of Parliamentary Party leader, and ultimately the prime ministership. Oli needs at least 88 members to remain the leader of the Parliamentary Party, and he is roughly short of a dozen members. Nepal has around 40 or so members on his side, say insiders.
In the 275-member Parliament, Oli needs the support of 138 lawmakers to retain the prime ministership, should he face a vote of no-confidence. If both Dahal and Nepal stand on one side, Oli’s prime ministership will become untenable.
Oli has 11 members with him in the 44-member Standing Committee while in the nine-member Secretariat, he has just Ishwar Pokhrel on his side, with Bishnu Poudel apparently standing opposed to the ordinances.
“If the party tries to unseat Oli as prime minister and party chair unceremoniously, the party will split,” said Prithvi Subba Gurung, a Standing Committee member and chief minister of Gandaki Province who is on Oli’s side. “As the people elected him as prime minister and the party’s general convention elected him as party chair, party leaders should not scheme to unseat him.”
Anil Giri contributed reporting.