Leaders call for Oli’s resignation as both prime minister and party chairSenior party leaders, including chair Dahal, ask Oli to vacate both positions as his actions have placed the ruling party and government in a difficult position.
What Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has long been attempting to avoid has finally come to pass—three top leaders from the ruling Nepal Communist Party, including Oli’s co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, have demanded that he resign as both prime minister and party chair.
Executive chair Dahal, senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam and Narayan Kaji Shrestha, along with 11 other Standing Committee members who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, sought Oli’s resignation as prime minister and party chair on the grounds that he had failed to effectively run the government and the party.
“Not only Dahal, all Standing Committee members who spoke today univocally demanded Oli’s resignation from both the party chair and the government saying that he cannot run both,” said Khanal, a former prime minister. “This ongoing Standing Committee will decide his fate.”
Though Tuesday’s meeting was supposed to be focused on the government’s Covid-19 response, the agenda was diverted by the prime minister’s Sunday statement, which irked party leaders. As soon as the meeting started, Dahal sought clarification from the prime minister, which was later followed by all other leaders.
The Standing Committee members who demanded Oli’s resignation are mostly from the Nepal and Maoist factions of the ruling party. They include Gokarna Bista, Beduram Bhusal, Asta Laxmi Shakya, Pampha Bhusal, Bhim Rawal, Raghuji Pant, Mukunda Neupane, Janardan Sharma, Yubaraj Gyawali, Surendra Pandey and Bhim Acharya.
There had long been murmurings of a plan to call for Oli’s resignations but many insiders and observers had assumed that the Dahal faction would be calling for Oli to pick between the party chair and the prime ministership. On Tuesday, the fourth day of the ongoing Standing Committee meet, they asked for both.
The call for Oli’s resignation comes days after Oli publicly said that plots were being hatched in Kathmandu and New Delhi to unseat him over the release of a new political map of Nepal that depicts Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as parts of Nepal. India claims these territories as its own.
Many had criticised Oli’s statements, saying the prime minister was attempting to deflect criticism from his government’s failings by playing the nationalist card.
Dahal specifically addressed Oli’s statement at Tuesday’s meeting, saying that the prime minister’s statement was an attack on Nepal’s independence and its right to self-determination.
“I had asked for your resignation as party chair and prime minister before the new map was endorsed,” Dahal said at the meeting, according to one Standing Committee member who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Such statements don’t suit you. You should step down.”
Party leaders, including Dahal, demanded that Oli produce evidence of the alleged Indian plots and summon the Indian ambassador for a clarification if the allegations were true.
Oli was equally vociferous in his reply, said party leaders, asking what was stopping Dahal from running the party since he too is a chairman.
“You are attacking me for not getting a share of resources,” Matrika Yadav, a Standing Committee member, quoted Oli as saying. “Despite being a party chair for 32 years, how much longer do you [Dahal] want to lead the party?”
Until his party’s merger with Oli’s CPN-UML in May 2018, Dahal had led the Maoist party for three decades.
Senior leaders Khanal and Nepal followed Oli’s speech, taking him to task for making decisions unilaterally, including on Cabinet formation and other important government appointments.
Nepal too said that Oli’s Sunday statement was not appropriate even if he had spoken as an individual, let alone the prime minister and chair of the ruling party. He also asked Oli to clarify whether the government wanted to fight with India or bring back the encroached land through dialogue, as his statements were further alienating India, according to Yadav.
Oli left the meeting after listening to Nepal, Khanal and Gautam and never returned.
He had skipped the last two days of the ongoing Standing Committee meeting, despite the meet being held at his residence in Baluwatar.
Before Tuesday’s meeting, Oli had met President Bidya Devi Bhandari for more than an hour at Sheetal Niwas. Party insiders say that Oli consulted with Bhandari on the crisis within the ruling party. When the meeting concluded, Dahal said that Oli had once again visited Sheetal Niwas, according to Yadav.
Tuesday’s meeting also discussed the appearance of an application to register a new party at the Election Commission two days ago, according to party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha. The new party is named CPN-UML, the same party that Oli led before its merger with Dahal’s Maoists to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). Despite formally merging on May 17, 2018, the unification process of the two parties has yet to be complete.
“Two days ago, an application was filed by Sandhya Tiwari of Jhapa to register the UML party at the Election Commission,” said Shrestha. “Leaders questioned the prime minister, but he replied that the Nepal Communist Party was his only party.”
But party leaders believe there is a fly in the ointment. There is suspicion within the ruling party that Oli, aware of the alliance building against him, is taking measures to split the party. He had told loyalists on April 28 while talking to lawmakers at Baluwatar to remain “ready for anything”.
During his address on Sunday too, Oli had taken a swipe at the Dahal faction, saying the Nepal Communist Party and its Parliamentary Party were not going to be swayed by anyone.
According to insiders, Oli feels that the opponent faction in the ruling party could consider employing the Parliamentary Party, where Oli falls short of around eight seats, to oust him.
There are concerns in the ruling party that if Oli senses a move of vote of no confidence against him, he could even go to the extent of splitting the party.
According to Khanal, if Oli decides to split the party, he will do it at his own peril and it will cost him dearly.
“He cannot split the party but he can take a few leaders with him if he wishes to leave,” Khanal told the Post. “But if he decides to do that, he will disgrace the entire party.”