Tough times ahead for Oli as party likely to ask him to choose between leading the country and leading the partyA majority of Secretariat and Standing Committee members have demanded a Standing Committee meeting where they plan to ask Oli to step down as prime minister.
Under pressure from his Secretariat and Standing Committee members, ruling Nepal Communist Party chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has intensified discussions with his close confindates, even as rival factions continue to devise their own strategies.
A majority of Secretariat and Standing Committee members have been demanding a Standing Committee meeting, where they plan to ask Oli to step down as prime minister or choose between leading the country and leading the party.
Given that Oli is in the minority in the 44-member Standing Committee, with just 11 members on his side, he is likely to be compelled to give in, say party insiders.
Oli on Sunday held a meeting with his close aides, including Province 5 Chief Minister Shanker Pokhrel, to discuss ways to face the Secretariat and Standing Committee. A party leader who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Post that discussions revolved around how to avoid resigning as prime minister.
Senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal also held separate meetings with some Standing Committee members to chart out a future strategy.
Nepal’s role will be key as the factions led by Oli and the other party chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal are in a tough power game, at least two leaders told the Post.
“It is our common understanding that the government has desperately failed to deliver, so the Standing Committee meeting should be called immediately to review the overall scenario,” said Raghuji Panta, a Standing Committee member. “In the meeting, almost all members were of the view that it was time the party explored alternatives to Oli.”
Despite failures on the governance front, corruption allegations and highhandedness in leadership, Oli’s situation had not become so untenable in the last two years.
But leaders say that Oli’s move to push through two ordinances last week set in motion a series of events, including allegations of abduction of a sitting lawmaker, earning disrepute for the government and the party.
While as many as 20 Standing Committee members have been asking for a meeting, six out of nine Secretariat members, who are considered the senior most leaders in the party hierarchy, have warned Oli that he could be recalled any time soon.
According to two leaders who spoke on condition of anonymity citing the fluid situation in the party, Oli is left with very few options.
Either he has to take everyone along by changing his ways and abiding by the party committees, or he will have to make way for others, said a leader.
“The Standing Committee is set to vote on recalling Oli,” the leader told the Post. “Another option the members are mulling is asking Oli to prove his majority in the Parliamentary Party.”
Even though Oli is in minority in the Secretariat and Standing Committee, as of now, he still appears to command a comfortable majority when it comes to the party’s 174 Members of Parliament—121 from the former CPN-UML and 53 from the Maoists.
But given the evolving dynamics, where the former UML too has various factions led by Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal and Bamdev Gautam, the tables could quickly turn, as all these leaders are currently in the Dahal fold.
But so far, Oli has resisted and refused to even call the Secretariat meeting, a prerequisite for the Standing Committee to convene.
“There is no decision yet when the Secretariat meeting will be held,” party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha told the Post. “Something concrete will come up in a day or two.”
Leaders from the Nepal faction say that only a credible reconciliation proposal from Oli can save him.
“When Oli faces the Standing Committee, he needs to come up with a convincing proposal, or else he is in for a tough time,” said Bishnu Rijal, a central committee member who has close relations with Nepal. “A situation may arise where Oli has to hand over either the prime ministership or party chairmanship to Nepal.”
How things evolve, however, will also depend on Dahal’s moves.
Another leader close to Nepal said that if Dahal shows any interest in becoming the prime minister while he and Oli continue as party chairs, Nepal is likely to side with Oli.
With pressure mounting on Oli, ruling party leaders are also wary of any drastic moves that Oli could make.
“The prime minister is waiting for the rival faction to make a move,” said Gokul Baskota, one of Oli’s close aides. “Let them call the Standing Committee meeting and Secretariat meeting and let them table a no confidence vote against the prime minister. The prime minister will respond accordingly.”