Oli extends an olive branch to Dahal but the latter remains unconvincedA line of leaders close to prime minister has been making a dash to Khumaltar in a bid to appease the party chair who is miffed at Oli continuing to make unilateral decisions.
On Friday Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali went to meet his party chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal in the latter’s residence.
On Thursday it was Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel, general secretary of the Nepal Commnist Party (NCP), and, separately, Chief Minister of Lumbini Shanker Pokhrel and Chief Minister of Gandaki Province Prithvi Subba Gurung, who met Dahal in Khumaltar.
On Wednesday it was the deputy Parliamentary Party leader of the ruling party, Subas Nembang.
Besides being Standing Committee members all of them have one common characteristic. In a deeply divided party, they all belong to the faction led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, the other chair of the party.
All were, presumably, sent by Oli to appease Dahal.
“Underground and overground infighting in our party continues until one side feels weakened,” Top Bahadur Rayamaji, a Standing Committee member, said. “This is part of an old struggle between Oli and Dahal and their respective coteries.”
In a three-way division—with senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal leading the third front—the side with two top leaders has more power in the ruling party.
In September, following a task force recommendation to resolve the year-long dispute in the party, Oli and Dahal had agreed to mend fences and move forward with the primary agreement that Oli would take Dahal into confidence while making important appointments and, more importantly, the Cabinet would be reshuffled.
But on October, 1, Oli appointed former finance minister Yuvaraj Khatiwada as ambassador to the United States and outgoing chief secretary Lok Darshan Regmi as ambassador to the United Kingdom.
Sources close to Dahal claimed that the co-chair had not been consulted.
Then on October 14, Oli filled three vacant ministerial positions with Bishnu Poudel in the Ministry of Finance, Krishna Gopal Shrestha in the Ministry of Urban Development and Leelanath Shrestha in the Ministry of Women, Children and Senior Citizens.
Again, those close to Dahal cried foul and it was a unilateral Oli decision.
The ongoing attempts at appeasing Dahal have been a result of his refusal to meet, or even talk to Oli over the phone, since October 19.
“Efforts are underway to break the standoff,” said Nembang.
Besides these appointments, Dahal is also unhappy with the attempt to unseat Chief Minister of Karnali Province Mahendra Bahadur Shahi, a Dahal protege, and Oli’s meeting with Samant Goel, head of India’s external spy agency Research and Analysis Wing, without Dahal being informed about it.
“I apprised party chairman Dahal about the current international and national scenario including the recent visit by Goel,” Foreign Minister Gyawali told the Post. “As a party leader and foreign minister, it is my job to meet leaders and appraise them.Therefore, every issue should not be linked with differences within the party.”
Gyawali, however, did admit that the party is facing a crisis but was confident it could be managed.
“There are misunderstandings between Oli and Dahal on how to run the party and the government,” said Gyawali. “There are also differences between the two former communist parties about concluding their unification process.”
But Dahal has felt deceived by Oli this time and is seriously considering not meeting Oli until he agrees to correct his mistakes and summon the meeting of the party Secretariat, Standing Committee and later Central Committee, a member of Dahal’s secretariat, told the Post.
In all these committees, the Oli faction would be a minority if Dahal and Nepal were to join hands.
Nepal, to get Dahal on his side, instructed provincial lawmakers close to him to withdraw their support to the no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Shahi earlier this month, thus saving the Dahal supporter’s chair.
“This incident has shown that the alliance between Dahal and Nepal is growing stronger and any attempts from Oli to break the alliance will prove costly,” a Standing Committee member close to Dahal said.
While he has not been meeting Oli, Dahal has been holding talks with Nepal as well as another former prime minister Jhala Nath Khanal and party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha, all belonging to the anti-Oli camp in the nine-member Secretariat, according to a member of Dahal’s secretariat.
He has also been meeting Bam Dev Guatam, vice chair of the party, who has been vacillating between the pro- and anti-Oli camps in the year-long dispute.
Dahal reached out to Nepal after Oli started cultivating the latter offering the party leadership in the upcoming general convention but Nepal is not convinced with Oli, a Standing Committee member close to leader Nepal, told the Post.
Despite the machinations against Oli, the Oli camp remains optimistic.
“A positive environment is being created to hold a meeting between Oli and Dahal,” Nembang told the Post. “It will take another couple of days to know how and when two leaders will meet and resolve the dispute.”
But the anti-Oli camp does not sound as optimistic.
“There is no progress in ending the standoff between the two chairmen and therefore I have suggested a meeting of the party Secretariat to discuss all issues that have surfaced now,” party spokesperson Shrestha told the Post.
“Until Oli remains in power as party chairman and prime minister, our party will remain in trouble,” said Raghuji Pant, a standing committee close to Nepal.
Some leaders close to the Dahal and Nepal factions are saying that a no-confidence motion could be registered against Oli if Oli does not correct his working style.
“It is not a mature proposal but if Dahal goes about it seriously and senior leader Nepal and party vice chairman Gautam extend full cooperation, it can materialise,” the standing committee member close to Dahal said.
Meanwhile, the power play continues in the ruling party with different sides making moves and counter moves.
“It is about power balance in the party and will continue until one side surrenders,” said Rayamajhi. “This time, the power struggle between Oli and Dahal is a bit serious but manageable although it needs a very careful resolution by both sides.”