Oli and Dahal agree to continue talks as they declare a ‘ceasefire’ for nowWhile both party chairs agreed not to spoil the environment for dialogue, there has been little progress on resolving the ongoing crisis.
With both party chairs KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal agreeing to put a halt to all activities that could negatively affect the ongoing dialogue, party leaders say the two conflicting parties in the ruling Nepal Communist Party have agreed to a “ceasefire” for the time being.
The Oli faction has agreed to halt street protests against the Dahal camp in an effort to build an environment conducive to talks, even as both leaders sought more time for discussions. The two leaders also decided to postpone the ongoing Standing Committee meeting for the third time to Wednesday.
“For now, it’s a situation of ceasefire. Serious talks have started but the two chairs have not found the point of agreement yet,” said Haribol Gajurel, a Standing Committee member. “They need to analyse what led to this stalemate first and then come up with a solution.”
Talks between Oli and Dahal failed once again on Monday but a party leader close to Dahal said developments are expected on Tuesday.
“On Monday, Dahal demanded a framework to resolve the issue, which Oli promised to provide on Tuesday,” said Raghuji Pant, a Standing Committee member close to Madhav Nepal.
Pant, however, said this time around, party leaders will not agree to any secret deal between the two chairs and that everything should be taken to the Standing Committee.
Dahal and Oli have both played their opening hands but either side has yet to take things further. After Dahal, supported by senior leaders Madhav Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam and nearly 30 Standing Committee members, called for Oli’s resignation as both prime minister and party chair, Oli prorogued Parliament, creating a ground for issuing an ordinance that will allow him to split the party easily.
According to insiders, the two chairs have also decided to hold “one-on-one” talks from now onwards, without the presence of second-rung leaders.
In meetings so far, Barshaman Pun, Janardan Sharma, Shanker Pokhrel and Bishnu Poudel have been present. Pun and Sharma are from the Dahal side while Pokhrel and Poudel are from the Oli side.
The Oli faction had proposed the formation of an informal task force to find a solution to the ongoing crisis but opponents rejected the idea, saying it was simply a ploy to create confusion between the Dahal and Nepal camps.
“There is no task force but Standing Committee members, including Ghanshyam Bhusal, have been brainstorming to help the two chairs seek a proper solution to avert a looming crisis,” said Pun, a Standing Committee member who is close to Dahal.
“The two chairs have started serious discussions on all underlying issues in a better environment and that is all the progress for now.”
Oli and Dahal have been in discussion since Friday, after the former on Thursday suddenly prorogued the House, stoking concerns if he will split the party through an ordinance.
However, no meeting was held between the two leaders on Saturday and instead, Oli met with his Cabinet ministers, including state ministers, and President Bidya Bhandari on the day.
After returning from Sheetal Niwas, Oli told his ministers that plots were being hatched to not only oust him as party chair and prime minister but to also impeach the President.
Dahal, Nepal and Khanal quickly met with Bhandari on Sunday to clarify that there were no such plans and that the allegations were baseless.
Oli has maintained in his meetings that he is ready to hold discussions on all issues, except for his resignation—neither as party chair nor as prime minister.
The bone of contention now is which agreement the two leaders should abide by—one reached in May 2018 or another reached in November 2019.
While Oli has been pushing for the November 2019 agreement that made Dahal executive chairman, Dahal has been arguing in favour of the May 2018 ‘gentleman’s agreement’ which says that the two chairs will run the government in turns–two and a half years each.
Dahal too has hardened his position and is refusing to budge for anything less than Oli’s resignation as prime minister and his turn at the head of the government, say party insiders.
Leaders close to Dahal say that Oli is positive on handing over the prime ministership “in a few months,” as both President Bhandari and his coterie of leaders have suggested that he step down to save the party from a split.
Oli, however, according to a Standing Committee member who is close to him, is ready to abide by the November 2019 agreement provided that he gets to lead the government for the full five-year term .
“Oli has offered Dahal the executive chair with him focusing only on government and taking decisions through consensus,” said the Standing Committee member close to Oli. “This does not mean Oli will relinquish his party chair post. He will continue to hold it with ceremonial status.”
Oli could offer Dahal sole chairmanship of the ruling party at the upcoming national convention and the prime ministership for the next term, according to Oli faction leaders.
But the Nepal faction says it will not be falling for any promises that are not made in substance and do not address the concerns of other leaders, including Nepal, Khanal and Gautam.
“Nepal is fed up with such offers from Oli,” said Pant. “Dahal too won't fall into such a trap anymore.”