Oli scrambles to prevent censure at Standing Committee meet but Dahal remains adamantOli realises his position in the party and government is shaky, with a proposal calling for his abdication of at least party chair or prime minister likely to be endorsed.
The ongoing Standing Committee meeting of the ruling Nepal Communist Party is going to be a political quagmire for Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, with rival factions readying to call for his resignation.
This Standing Committee meeting, which will continue on Friday after beginning on Wednesday, has already gotten off to a combative start, with both party chairs—Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal—accusing the other of failing the party and the government.
But with Oli in the minority within the Standing Committee, he is likely to share a majority of the blame, with many going so far as to call for his resignation as prime minister unless he fails to make a public self-confession against running the party unilaterally, according to two Standing Committee members from the rival factions.
“The way Dahal spoke at Wednesday's [Standing Committee] meeting clearly indicates that Oli’s position is shaky,” said one Standing Committee member. “We understand that he sent a powerful and strongly worded message to Oli.”
The leader told the Post that Dahal made a very sensitive revelation regarding some of the moves that Oli could take in the future to save himself.
“We have heard that Pakistani, Afghani or Bangladeshi models are being worked out to remain in power, but such attempts are not going to succeed,” Dahal said on Wednesday, according to the leader.
“No one can send us to jail in the name of corruption. It’s not easy to rule the country with the help of the army and it is not possible to split the party and run the government by allying with the opposition.”
With the Bhaisepati alliance reconstituted, sentiments against Oli are rising within the ruling party and the Standing Committee could even endorse a proposal asking him to choose one post—either prime minister or party chair—by respecting the ‘one man, one post’ doctrine.
Oli is once again in the minority in both the Secretariat and the Standing Committee. With Dahal, seniors leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam and Narayan Kaji Shrestha allied against him, Oli is isolated in the Secretariat. In the 45-members Standing Committee, not more than 15 members are likely to stand in his favour, say party leaders.
After sensing the opposition building against him in the Standing Committee, Oli on Thursday, called Dahal to his residence and discussed a compromise so he could avert a major embarrassment, said an aide to Dahal.
Dahal, however, was adamant that it is impossible to ask members to soften their tone against Oli, said the aide.
Oli is also weighing other options, including a Cabinet reshuffle to give more responsibility to leaders from the Dahal and Nepal camps, say party insiders. But no one from the rival faction is interested in joining the government unless Dahal and Nepal accede and there is no meaning to reshuffling the Cabinet by inducting Oli’s own people, said a Standing Committee member.
If Oli has to surrender one post, he will likely step down as party chair in favour of senior leader Nepal, according to party members.
Top Bahadur Rayamaji, another Standing Committee member said that though politics is not that easy to do, it is also not true that there is such a harsh and better relation between Oli and Dahal.
Rayamaji, who belongs to the Dahal faction, has kept a soft approach to Oil after his recent meetings with Oli’s advisers.
“Yes there is criticism of the party and the government but it does not mean, as some media reported, that we have a dispute. That is not true. People’s expectations are high and the government might not fulfil the requirements of the people but we can correct the weakness,” said Rayamaji, blaming the media for the entire mess within the ruling party and the way news is dissementing.
Oli is facing a number of issues in the Standing Committee, including the government’s response to Covid-19 and the controversy over the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Nepal Compact, a $500 million grant provided by the US government to Nepal. A majority of Standing Committee members are against the Compact, say party insiders.
Oli wants to ratify the MCC from the ongoing House session while Dahal wants to make some amendments to the US grant. Afraid that Dahal will weaponise the MCC to score points within the party, Oli is now considering amendments to the Nepal Compact, say party leaders.
“The effectiveness of the government is being questioned so the Standing Committee will definitely urge the prime minister to correct his course,” said Bhim Acharya, a standing committee member.
“There are issues related to the government, provincial governments, and party unification. There will be some kind of review at the end but we do not yet know what that will be.”
Analysts, however, believe that the current situation within the ruling party is largely a result of the weakening of democratic functioning.
“Do you have a cordial environment inside the party and the government? Is your decision-making transparent and are you resolving disputes through democratic means? All of these matter,” said political scientist Khagendra Prasain.
“These disputes are a reflection of an undemocratic culture. When democratic space is squeezed inside the party and dialogue among stakeholders diminishes, then such kinds of activities arise.”