In bid to manage party conflict, Oli plans Cabinet reshuffle as part of larger deal with DahalParty insiders say change in ministers and some other agreements are likely to save the party unity and address the concerns of leaders including Nepal and Khanal.
After weeks of wrangling, ruling Nepal Communist Party chairs KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal appear to have reached a tactical understanding, and to manage the ongoing conflict a Cabinet reshuffle is on the cards as part of a “package deal”.
The ruling party, for the past few months, has been in a crisis with the faction led by Dahal, backed by senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal, demanding Oli’s resignation both as party chair and prime minister.
As Oli and Dahal resumed talks after a break of nine days on August 13, the party, a day later, decided to form a six-member task force to suggest ways to resolve the conflict. The task force has two members each from Oli, Dahal and Nepal sides.
According to insiders, just as the task force begins its work, exercises will start to address the concerns of the Dahal-Nepal faction so as to resolve the ongoing disputes.
“As per my understanding, the task force will provide a blueprint to the party leadership for resolving the conflict after which at least one round of Cabinet reshuffle will take place,” Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, who is also a Standing Committee member, told the Post. “The task force is likely to submit its report by Tuesday.”
The party has called a Secretariat meeting on Monday morning. The meeting is expected to endorse the formation of the six-member panel led by Poudel and finalise its mandate.
Factional feud in the ruling party had deepened until last month with the Dahal-Nepal faction refusing to make any concession less than Oli’s resignation.
As many as 31 out of the 44 Standing Committee members had demanded that Oli step down both as party chair and prime minister.
Oli, however, forced Dahal into sitting for talks, and the two held a series of one-on-one meetings starting July 2. Nepal and Khanal attended two meetings between Oli and Dahal, but separately. But talks suddenly broke down after Oli said that he would not resign and asked the Dahal faction “to do whatever they can”.
At one point, leaders from the Dahal faction were ready to force a decision against Oli and take it to the Central Committee. Over 150 central members had even demanded a Central Committee meeting.
Oli, however, kept on postponing the Standing Committee, where the Dahal-Nepal faction holds a majority, and in the meantime managed to win over party vice-chair Bamdev Gautam, suddenly tipping the balance in the Secretariat.
Insiders say the task force may present a proposal, which could also include names of those to be inducted in the Cabinet. Change in chief ministers in some provinces, probably Bagmati and Province 5, also cannot be ruled out to placate all the factions, especially the Nepal group, according to insiders.
According to a leader who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying the development is in a preliminary state, Dahal has made “some kind” of agreement with both Nepal and Khanal.
“A Cabinet reshuffle as well as some changes in provinces and some political appointments are likely,” said the leader. “If agreed upon by all, Oli could induct Gautam into the Cabinet as deputy prime minister.”
Two chief ministers may be recalled to adjust those recommended by the Dahal-Nepal faction, according to the leader.
Insiders say party spokesperson Shrestha too has been laying claim to a deputy prime minister position along with a ministerial portfolio.
According to leaders from the Oli and Dahal camps, at least 10 new faces could make it to the Cabinet.
It was not immediately clear what exactly is the deal between Oli and Dahal about themselves, as all other arrangements, including the Cabinet reshuffle, are aimed at managing other conflicts.
The larger deal which Oli and Dahal seem to have reached, according to some leaders, is that Oli will continue as prime minister and Dahal will lead the party as executive chairman until the general convention. This deal is in line with the November 2019 understanding, which said Oli could lead the government for the full term and Dahal would run the party.
Until the general convention, Dahal will chair meetings of the Secretariat, Standing Committee and Central Committee and will take charge of the preparations related to the unity convention, including the ideological debate.
There, however, is no clarity on when the general convention will be held–as leaders are mullig November/December and March/April dates.
“The infighting in the party in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and natural disasters has sent a negative message among the people,” said Raghuji Pant, a Standing Committee member close to Nepal. “Party leadership has agreed to iron out the differences so that the government and the party can focus on the challenges that the nation is currently facing.”
According to Pant, the party leadership is close to settling disputes and the task force is going to assist in addressing the concerns of all factions.
“Cabinet reshuffle is a long pending issue and this time, after reaching some understanding among the top leadership, it is likely to take place soon,” said Pant.