A tentative deal between Oli and Dahal saves ruling party from imminent split, for nowSenior leader Madhav Nepal says any backdoor dealings will not be accepted and that he will go to the party rank and file if the two chairs attempted to impose totalitarianism.
The ruling Nepal Communist Party seems to have survived the imminent danger of a split for now, as party chairs KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal are close to a deal—courtesy of President Bidya Devi Bhandari.
Oli and Dahal are trying to finalise a deal on holding the party’s general convention by November/December this year, according to party insiders. As per the deal, Dahal for now has dropped the idea of Oli’s resignation, which had brought the party quite close to an implosion until a few weeks ago.
Dahal, backed by senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal had been demanding that Oli step down as both party chair and prime minister. As many as 30 out of 44 Standing Committee members had also demanded Oli’s resignation.
Friday’s Standing Committee meeting was said to be crucial, but it was once again postponed until Sunday, as both the chairmen sought more time. On Thursday, leaders agreed to take all the disputed issues to the Central Committee.
The party then called a meeting of the Secretariat, which has nine members, as part of the process to decide on the Central Committee meeting. Both Oli and Dahal went to meet with the President on Saturday evening after the Secretariat meeting to “discuss the ongoing party disputes”.
“During the Secretariat meeting, Oli proposed holding the general convention in four months,” said a Secretariat member who requested anonymity.
But Nepal and Khanal have expressed their reservations about the proposed convention and they are concerned about any backdoor dealings between Oli and Dahal.
Leaders close to Nepal said that they were not yet convinced about the deal regarding the general convention.
According to a leader who is familiar with the development, Nepal had questioned during Saturday's meeting about the general convention proposal floated by Oli. Nepal also wondered how Dahal had easily bought Oli’s idea of the convention, said the leader.
“It will be a big mistake if the party is run just by two chairs,” the leader quoted Nepal as saying at Saturday’s Secretariat meeting. “Our major concern is how to run the government and the party effectively.”
According to the leader, Nepal even warned of going to the party rank and file “to expose the totalitarianism imposed by the two chairs”.
The Nepal Communist Party was born out of a merger between Oli’s CPN-UML and Dahal’s Maoist Centre in May 2018. The deal then was that the party’ general convention would be held within two years. But the party so far has not been able to conclude the unification process.
In November 2019, Oli and Dahal had reached a deal that the former would lead the government for the full five-year term and the latter would run the party as “executive chairman”. But that could not happen, largely due to Oli’s reluctance, according to leaders.
The November 2019 deal was reached after Dahal constantly brought up the May 2018 agreement which meant Oli and him would lead the government in turns—two and a half years each.
The crisis in the ruling party reached a tipping point last month when Dahal, along with Madhav Nepal and Khanal, upped the ante, demanding that Oli step down both as party chair and prime minister. But Oli pulled off a coup, by suddenly proroguing Parliament on July 2, and two days later accusing the Dahal-Nepal faction of plotting to oust him and impeach the President.
Since then, Oli and Dahal had been in talks to find a way out.
After both the chairs agreed to hold the general convention by November/December, they, accompanied by party General Secretary Bishnu Poudel and Standing Committee member Janardan Sharma, had reached Sheetal Niwas.
Insiders say the meeting dwelt on the proposed general convention and Sunday’s Standing Committee meeting.
Multiple leaders the Post spoke to said they were not aware of what transpired in the meeting between Oli, Dahal and the President. They, however, said that the meeting was aimed at discussing the party’s general convention in November/December.
The leaders said the deal between Oli and Dahal means the former would back the latter for chairmanship in the party at the general convention.
It, however, is not clear what deal has been reached when it comes to senior leaders Nepal and Khanal, with whose support Dahal was demanding Oli’s resignation.
A leader from the Nepal faction said that the general convention deal between Oli and Dahal is not convincing.
“Yes, Oli has proposed the general convention in four months, but an agreement is yet to be reached officially,” said Raghuji Pant, a Standing Committee member close to Nepal. “How is it even possible without a political document in this regard? And then again there is the issue of membership for holding the general convention.”