After semblance of peace in ruling party, Secretariat meet set to move to Parisdanda from BaluwatarThere had been growing criticism of the Prime Minister’s official residence, a public property, being used for holding meetings of a political party.
Following growing criticism of the ruling Nepal Communist Party holding its meetings at the Prime Minister’s official residence, the next meeting of the party’s Secretariat scheduled for Monday will for the first time be held at the party’s offices at Parisdanda in Koteshwor.
The Parisdanda property—which used to be the headquarters of the erstwhile Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) until its unification with the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) in May 2018 to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP)—now houses the offices of the party’s sister organisations.
“Holding the meeting at Parisdanda gives a message that party unification is being strengthened,” said a Standing Committee meeting who did not want to be named.
The Secretariat meeting comes after the rift in the party has narrowed following an abrupt end to the long drawn out Standing Committee meeting. Tensions ran high when the rival faction demanded the resignation of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, but peace seems to have returned to the ruling party with the nomination of party vice chair Bamdev Gautam to the National Assembly and the handover of party reins to Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
Following the unification in 2018, the meetings of the party used to be held at Dhumbarahi, formerly the headquarters of the CPN-UML, although leaders from both sides had agreed to use the properties of Parisdanda and Dhumbarahi for different purposes and call both places the party headquarters.
But of late, most of the meetings of the nine-member Secretariat and the 44-member Standing Committee were held at the Prime Minister’s official residence, which had been criticised both within and outside the party.
“This is a welcome step and this should be given continuity,” said Bhim Rawal, a standing committee member who had been demanding that party meetings be held outside Baluwatar. “To run the party in a system with institutional memory and other reasons, party meetings should be held in the party office.”
The decision to hold the Secretariat meeting at Parisdanda was taken in view of the criticism the party had been facing for holding various meetings inside the Prime Minister’s official residence, according to party spokesman Narayan Kaji Shrestha.
The Secretariat meeting was supposed to be held at Parisdanda on Friday but due to the busy schedule of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, it was deferred till Monday.
“The decision to hold the meeting at Parisdada was taken by Oli and another chairman, Pushpa Kamal Dahal during their meeting on Thursday,” said Shrestha.
Office space and meeting halls in Dhumbarahi are congested and there is no sufficient room to hold the meeting by maintaining social distance but there is enough space at Parisdanda, according to Shrestha.
During the unification of the two parties, top leaders from both sides had agreed to use the UML’s central office as the new party’s central office and the Maoist headquarters in Parisdanda as the offices of the party’s sister wings.
As soon as Oli became the prime minister in February, 2018, the party held Standing Committee meetings and Secretariat meetings in Dhumbarahi. But after the Prime Minister became ill and went to Singapore for treatment in August last year, the meetings of the top party committees were convened in Baluwatar although one Central Committee and one Standing Committee meeting were held at Dhumbarahi.
Most cabinet meetings also have been taking place at Baluwatar since his return from Singapore but after Prime Minister Oli had a second kidney transplant in March all Cabinet meetings, party meetings and other small gatherings that he attends have been taking place at Baluwatar.
Oli has hardly visited his office inside Singha Durbar after his kidney transplant.
The Prime Minister’s Office, which was relocated to a new building inside Singha Durbar after the old office was damaged in the 2015 earthquake, does not have enough space for Cabinet meetings maintaining distance, one secretary at the Prime Minister’s office told the Post.
“Prime Minister Oli’s health is fragile due to the recent kidney transplant and the most important reason is Covid-19,” said a ruling party leader close to Oli. “Therefore, he has to take extra caution while meeting with people and cannot frequently move outside Baluwatar.”
Given the mandatory health protocols, party meetings are taking place at Baluwatar, he said.
Despite the situation and Oli’s health, the practice of holding party meetings at Baluwatar has drawn criticism.
“Holding party meetings inside the Prime Minister's residence was totally a wrong practice,” said Chandi Shrestha, a former home secretary. “Holding Cabinet meetings is fine due to his health. The Prime Minister’s official residence is a public property and the Prime Minister is of the country, not of a political party. Therefore, in general practice, party meetings should be held in the party office, not at the Prime Minister’s residence. The official residence is not a place for holding family parties or party meetings.”
But Oli’s aides maintain that in future if the need arises party meetings will be held at Baluwatar. “As per the necessity and requirement, the party meetings may take place inside Baluwatar in future,” said Surya Thapa, press adviser to the prime minister.
No matter where party meetings are held in future, the latest decision to move the meeting away from the Prime Minister’s official residence has been welcomed within the party.
“This is just a beginning and the first attempt,” said Rawal, the ruling party leader.