As ruling party standoff continues, over 150 members demand Central Committee meetingInsiders say the Dahal faction is now all prepared to put a squeeze on Oli to make a concession or resign as party chair.
As Nepal Communist Party chairmen KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal cross swords over the party system and government functioning, as many as 152 central members have demanded a meeting of the Central Working Committee “as soon as possible”, in an indication that the ruling party is in for more trouble.
The faction led by Dahal, backed by senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal, has been demanding that Oli step down as party chair right away. Oli, however, has refused to budge from his stance.
After the Dahal faction unilaterally held a meeting with the majority of Standing Committee members at Baluwatar on Tuesday despite Oli’s insistence that the meeting be postponed, things have taken an ugly turn in the ruling party.
Lekhnath Neupane, a Central Committee member, told the Post that as the Standing Committee meeting has failed to provide an outlet, central members are demanding that all the outstanding issues be taken to the party’s highest body.
“The Central Committee is the highest and legitimate body to decide on party issues,” said Neupane.
Tuesday saw high drama in the ruling party, as the Dahal faction went ahead with the Standing Committee meeting in Oli’s own backyard despite his reluctance to attend. Later in the evening, in a rare incident, Oli left Baluwatar to travel all the way to Bhainsepati to meet party vice-chair Bamdev Gautam at his residence for seeking his support.
After weeks of negotiations, both Oli and Dahal factions now appear to be ready to take on each other, with none showing signs of making any concessions.
The Nepal Communist Party (NCP), formed in May 2018 after the merger of Oli’s CPN-UML and Dahal’s Maoist Centre, is now on the verge of a split.
Insiders say conflict is likely to escalate as rift between the two chairs has widened in recent days. Oli’s blunt answer to Dahal on Friday that he won’t capitulate to any demand and that the rival faction is free to “do whatever it wants” further complicated the matter, according to a leader close to Dahal who did not wish to be named.
Neupane said there is now little likelihood that the Standing Committee could resolve the dispute.
“So we have decided to take all the issues to the Central Committee,” Neupane told the Post. “Our party charter and the Election Commission recognise the Central Committee's decisions only. So whatever disputes are there, they should be discussed and resolved by the Central Committee.”
In the second week of July also, party members had by and large agreed to let the Central Committee resolve all the disputed issues. Since Oli and Dahal were in negotiations, there was no further development to that effect, say party insiders.
Oli was also reluctant to hold the Central Committee meeting, as he lacks the numbers, just like he is in the minority in the Standing Committee.
According to leaders, Dahal and Nepal have around 300 members on their side in the Central Committee, with around 130 members supporting Oli.
Gautam, whom Oli has been trying to win over, commands just about six members.
A decision by the Central Committee, which has 441 members, could make things difficult for Oli. This is the most powerful body in the Nepal Communist Party to take on any issues other than during the general convention.
Driven into a corner, Oli, according to insiders, could take some drastic steps, ranging from issuance of an ordinance to facilitate party split to House dissolution. Therefore, the Dahal faction wants the Central Committee meeting as early as possible, leaders say.
A Standing Committee member close to Oli told the Post that Oli is not going to compromise at any cost so he could again insist on going back to the Secretariat.
In the nine-member Secretariat also Oli was in the minority until a few weeks ago. But with Gautam almost on his side and Ram Bahadur Thapa, a former Maoist leader and home minister in the Oli Cabinet, undecided, Oli has an edge on the Secretariat.
“Oli is trying to gain majority in the Secretariat and his meeting with Gautam on Tuesday evening is part of that attempt,” the Standing Committee member told the Post who requested anonymity because he feared retribution.
According to the member, Oli on Tuesday promised Gatuam a seat in the National Assembly. Gautam, who has switched sides multiple times over the last few months, however, has yet to commit, even though he appears to have sided with Oli at this point of time, said the member.
Minister for Agriculture and Livestock Development Ghanshyam Bhusal told the Post that the dispute in the party is unlikely to be settled anytime soon.
“The party is in a very difficult situation,” said Bhusal. “There, however, is no alternative to a compromise among the top leaders.”
According to Bhusal, Oli appears too focussed on securing a majority in the Secretariat and Standing Committee instead of finding a way to settle the dispute. “And that’s the problem. It’s Oli who seems to be the root cause of the problem and an obstacle to a resolution,” said Bhusal.
Raghuji Pant, a Standing Committee member who is close to Madhav Nepal, said they have given the responsibility to Dahal to hold talks with Oli to find an amicable solution.
“We have not held the Standing Committee properly even though it first started in late June,” said Pant.
After the first meeting on June 24, the Standing Committee which sat in a gap of two to three days has not been able to meet since July 2.
“We need to hold the Standing Committee meeting if possible,” said Pant. “If the Standing Committee fails to give a resolution, the party has to look for other ways.”