A cornered Oli prorogues the House and considers splitting the ruling partyParty insiders say that Oli is planning to reintroduce an ordinance that will make it easier for him to split the party, and is also seeking support from the opposition.
After finding himself on shaky ground in the wake of growing calls from within his party to step down, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Thursday recommended prorogation of the ongoing session of the federal parliament. The recommendation was swiftly approved by the President.
Oli also reached out to the main opposition Nepali Congress and sought support in case his government falls in the minority. One option Oli is mulling, if he runs out of alternatives, is reintroducing the Ordinance to Political Parties Act, which was shelved in April after a huge controversy.
With the House session prorogued, Oli now has an opportunity to introduce an ordinance to amend the Political Parties Act 2073 to make it easier to split the party. Oli could decide to split if he is further cornered in the party, where the other chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and senior party leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal and Bamdev Gautam have been demanding his resignation as both party chair and prime minister. Ending the House session also saves him from having to pass the floor test, as his opponents cannot present a motion of no confidence.
According to party insiders, Oli has made his move and now it is up to the opposing faction to respond.
“Now the ball is in the Dahal-Nepal group’s court,” said Mani Thapa, a Standing Committee member. “Oli has managed to put the pressure back on the Dahal-Nepal faction, as any move they make will be seen to be responsible for the party split.”
According to Thapa, who attended both consultation meetings held by Oli and Dahal on Wednesday, Oli will not hesitate to split the party if the Dahal-Nepal faction continues to press him to step down.
Despite having a nearly two-thirds majority in Parliament, Oli has arrived at a situation where he might have to resign as the factions led by Dahal and Nepal have upped the ante.
If Oli splits the party, he is likely to have around 78 to 80 lawmakers on his side. The Nepal Communist Party has 174 lawakers in the House of Representatives, with around 53 on Dahal’s side and 43 on Nepal’s side. Oli needs 138 lawmakers to prove his majority in the House of Representatives and remain in power.
Oli, according to insiders, is relying on support from the Congress party, which has 63 seats, to prove his majority. He has been in consultation with primary opposition Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba for quite some time, according to at least three senior Congress leaders that the Post spoke to.
Congress Vice-President Bimalendra Nidhi told the Post that the Congress will support Oli if he so desires.
“But we won’t join the government,” said Nidhi.
After a majority of Standing Committee members, around 30 out of 44, demanded Oli’s resignation both as party chair and prime minister over the course of this past week, his position became increasingly tenuous.
Ahead of Thursday’s Standing Committee meeting, Oli suddenly called a Cabinet meeting and decided to prorogue the House. Just ahead of the Cabinet meeting, Oli held a one-on-one meeting with President Bhandari, details of which were not immediately available. But it was apparent that Oli had communicated to Bhandari his plans to prorogue the House.
Hours later, Dahal too held a meeting with the President.
During the meeting, Dahal, according to party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha, requested the President not to introduce the ordinance to facilitate a party split.
“The President said the ordinance had not come to her yet,” Shrestha quoted Dahal as saying at the meeting.
Later in the evening, the Standing Committee meeting resumed, where Dahal told leaders that Oli had refused to step down as party chair and as prime minister, and had also refused to attend the meeting.
“A serious crisis has surfaced in the party,” Shrestha said after the Standing Committee meeting. “The two chairs and other responsible leaders will make efforts during the next meeting, which has been scheduled for the day after tomorrow [Saturday], to avert the crisis.”
According to a leader close to Dahal, Oli is attempting to introduce an ordinance that will allow him to easily split the party. Existing provisions in the Political Party Act say any party split requires the support of 40 percent of the central committee and 40 percent of the party’s lawmakers.
In April, when Oli had first introduced this ordinance, the ‘and’ provision had been replaced with an ‘or’, meaning parties only required 40 percent of the central committee or the parliamentary party, not both.
“Since the Oli faction is aware that it is short of the numbers in the Central Committee, it is planning to introduce an ordinance with a provision requiring just 30 percent of central committee members or the parliamentary party members to split the party,” the leader told the Post on condition of anonymity.
In the 445-member Central Committee, Oli’s supporters account for around 30 percent. As of now, in the 174-strong Parliamentary Party, with 78 to 80 lawmakers on his side, he can easily command 40 percent support.
The party leader said that Oli is looking for a foolproof plan so that he can split the party both ways–through the central committee as well as the parliamentary party.
Sensing that Oli is ready for a split, the Dahal faction is now scrambling to avoid such a situation.
If Oli refuses to budge, Dahal will be left with no option than to reconcile and in that case, insiders say, both leaders will reach an understanding–that Dahal runs the party and Oli runs the government.
Some leaders, however, doubt that the party can remain united, given the drastic developments of the past few days.
“I don’t think our party will remain intact now,” said Matrika Yadav, a Standing Committee member who is close to Dahal. “Saturday’s meeting of the Standing Committee will take a decision on Oli. I don’t think the party will tolerate his autocratic style of functioning any more.”
But what concerns the Dahal faction is the Congress party’s plan to rise to the occasion. If the Congress commits to throwing its weight behind Oli, the Dahal faction will be left high and dry.
It will be a better option for both Oli and Dahal to reconcile, said one party leader.
“We all know the pain we will have to go through if the party splits. Oli should correct his style and listen to the party,” said Asta Laxmi Shakya, a Standing Committee member close to Nepal. “Dahal should find ways to ensure that the two leaders reconcile.”
Anil Giri contributed reporting.