Faced with an increasingly hostile party, Oli makes last ditch efforts to retain his positionHis opponents, however, are firm in their opposition, leading Oli to warn his confidantes to prepare for consequences, including a party split.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is in the midst of a political quagmire from which it might be difficult to escape unscathed, as a number of senior party leaders are likely to ask him to step down.
In an attempt to buy some time, a Secretariat meeting called for Tuesday was postponed, but insiders say Oli cannot avoid holding the meeting on Wednesday.
Sensing imminent danger, Oli has been in close consultations with his confidantes to ensure a majority in the Parliamentary Party. Of the 174 lawmakers from the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), Oli, who is already in the minority in the nine-member Secretariat and the 44-member Standing Committee, has around 78 on his side—10 Members of Parliament short of a majority.
On Monday, Oli made an all-out effort to clinch a deal with senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, who now holds the key to Oli’s stay in power, with around 40 Members of Parliament on his side. Oli has even offered Nepal the party chair, along with two chief minister positions and ministerial portfolios for his confidantes, as long as he gets to continue as prime minister.
The way Oli, who once drove Nepal into a corner, has been making concessions to Nepal has left the Dahal faction with no option than to up the ante, according to insiders from the Dahal camp. Dahal has offered Nepal the prime ministership.
Nepal, however, has not committed to anyone and is said to be weighing the options.
In a last ditch effort to find a middle path, Oli held a meeting with Dahal on Tuesday, which led to the postponement of the scheduled Secretariat meeting. But negotiations collapsed, according to two Standing Committee members.
Both chairs then agreed on calling the Secretariat meeting, which will decide the date for a Standing Committee meeting.
“Continuing with the status quo is not going to resolve the ongoing crisis,” said Beduram Bhusal, a Standing Committee member who has close relations with Nepal. “There is no alternative to Oli's removal. The way his government has undermined the democratic process is a matter of grave concern.”
Khanal, a former prime minister who has been eyeing Sheetal Niwas, is most likely to make the first move at Wednesday’s Secretariat meeting to demand Oli’s resignation.
“Oli agreed to call the Secretariat meeting for Wednesday at the insistence of Dahal, who has already allied with Khanal to press for the meeting,” said Bhusal.
According to party insiders, the Dahal and Nepal factions are united against Oli, even though Nepal has not made up his mind about Dahal’s offer.
On Tuesday evening, Oli had invited party lawmakers and his confidantes to Baluwatar to discuss the ongoing situation in the party.
According to a leader present at the meeting, Oli told all participants that he was not going to give up and asked them to brace for any challenges that may come in the coming days.
“Prepare yourself for the worst case scenario, even a party split,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
According to lawmaker Bijay Subba, during the meeting which was also attended by Lekhraj Bhatta, a former Maoist and current minister, many lawmakers, including Tilak Mahat and Navaraj Silwal, told Oli that they would stand by him.
“I called you to brief you about the situation and the possible consequences, so that you aren’t shocked later,” Subba quoted Oli as saying. “Be mentally prepared for anything.”