A deal might have been reached in the ruling party but suspicions remainMany party leaders do not trust Oli to live up to his promises, given numerous past instances of him not implementing agreements.
On Monday night, Nepal Communist Party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha warned that deviating from the conclusions reached at Saturday Secretariat meeting could once again invite an internal crisis.
“There should not be any ifs and buts; it just cannot be done. Protecting party unity, abiding by the system and government functioning as per party instructions… and for that self-criticism and commitment to start afresh. That’s the conclusion,” Shrestha wrote on Twitter.
Shrestha’s warning came just two days after the party had managed to defuse what looked like an insurmountable crisis in the wake of growing factionalism in the party. Until Friday, the faction led by party chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal was bent on calling for Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s resignation. But in a series of events that even ruling party leaders are describing as miraculous, party chair Oli managed to retain his position while dismantling the Bhaisepati alliance of his detractors.
But not two days have passed that clouds of suspicions have once again gathered, as the party prepares for a crucial Standing Committee meeting on Thursday.
“There are indications that Oli is not keen on abiding by the understanding reached at Saturday’s Secretariat meeting,” a party leader who has close relations with Nepal told the Post on condition of anonymity, citing the fluid situation in the party.
The party averted a crisis on Saturday after Oli managed to steal party vice-chair Bamdev Gautam from the Dahal faction and reached an understanding with Dahal to run the government as per party instructions and allow the latter to lead the party.
On Sunday, Dahal started writing a political document to present at the scheduled Standing Committee meeting and provide clarity on the functioning of the government and party, and internal power-sharing.
The major source of conflict in the ruling party was over power-sharing, and according to party insiders, a deal satisfying every leader’s interest was not easy to pull off.
According to Khanal, as long as Oli implements the party decision, there won’t be any problems.
“I have told him that the party will be fine if we set up a system and follow proper procedures,” Khanal, who met with Oli on Tuesday, told the Post. “I advised him to follow the party’s instructions.”
Establishing a proper system has long been one of Nepal’s major demands, who has also periodically asked that the party adopt the “one person, one responsiblity” system, which means that if Oli leads the government, he should relinquish the post of party chair.
Oli had attempted to placate Nepal by offering him a new position as third party chair alongside him and Dahal, along with at least two positions as chief minister and some ministerial berths for his faction. The offer was made at the April 29 Secretariat meeting after Dahal, Nepal and Khanal demanded Oli’s resignation.
Nepal did not respond to the offer.
After Saturday’s meeting, the equation has suddenly changed in the nine-member Secretariat. Oli, who was in the minority, now has a majority, with Gautam switching sides and Dahal cosying up to him, much to Nepal’s chagrin.
A majority in the Secretariat could have emboldened Oli again, say insiders.
On Monday, Dahal, Nepal, Khanal and Shrestha held a meeting at Shrestha’s residence in Hattiban, Lalitpur to discuss recent developments and indications that Oli could backtrack on his promises.
According to Birodh Khatiwada, a Central Committee member who has close relations with Nepal, everyone knows how grave the problem is within the party and that the Standing Committee needs to take up all the issues that are plaguing the party.
“The Standing Committee should come up with concrete guidelines for government-party relations,” Khatiwada told the Post. “All issues should be discussed at the Standing Committee and sorted out if we want to avoid a similar crisis in the future.”
On Tuesday, 19 of the 20 Standing Committee members who had demanded a meeting in writing held discussions to finalise the agenda and strategies for Thursday’s meeting. Chief whip Dev Gurung, a former Maoist leader, however, was not present in the meeting.
“The meeting dwelt on how we can present our issues in a unified manner at Thursday’s meeting,” said a Standing Committee member who did not wish to be identified.
When leaders reached a sudden deal on Saturday, some sceptics had described it as a “temporary truce”, which had been achieved largely due to Gautam’s decision to desert the camp and Dahal’s move to side with Oli.
The deal had also been reached on the heels of a series of meetings by Chinese envoy Hou Yanqi with Oli, Dahal and Nepal, giving rise to suspicions if the China factor had worked.
Leaders, however, had dismissed any Chinese role and attributed the breakthrough largely to Oli’s “first-ever self-criticism” and his promise to follow the party’s instructions while running the government.
A Standing Committee member who has close relations with Nepal said that Oli had just pulled a trick on Saturday as almost all the promises he made were verbal, with no guarantees if they will be fulfilled.
“It’s in Oli’s character to make deals and never implement them,” the member told the Post.
But leaders close to Oli say that there is no reason to doubt Oli’s commitment.
“There’s no need for him to backtrack. No other agreements have been reached except what the party spokesperson told the media,” Subas Nembang, a Standing Committee member who has close relations with Oli, told the Post.
After Saturday’s Secretariat meeting, Spokesperson Shrestha had said ‘all the leaders have decided to move ahead in a unified way’.
“There’s no alternative to implementing the conclusions of Saturday’s Secretariat meeting,” Shrestha told the Post. “I believe they will be implemented and doing so will be in the favour of the party.”