Is the pause in ruling party fighting the calm before the storm?The Dahal faction of the Nepal Communist Party is preparing to employ majority votes if Oli refuses to relent and hits back.
In the ongoing game of one-upmanship in the ruling party, the ball clearly is in the court of party chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
He has exactly a week now to plan his move. At the November 28 Secretariat meeting, he has to lay his cards on the table.
But the option he is choosing for the moment, going by the latest indications, is to woo the other chair Puspha Kamal Dahal.
On Friday, general secretary Bishnu Poudel and Standing Committee member Subas Nembang, both from the Oli faction in the party, had met Dahal to ask him to present a joint political document.
“As of today the only strategy is to move ahead with the proposal, and a merger of documents, as demanded by Oli’s men, is not possible,” said a member of Dahal’s secretariat.
The tradition in the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) is for a political document to be presented at the meeting of the 44-member Standing Committee after it is discussed at the nine-member Secretariat. The next meeting of the party’s Standing Committee is scheduled for December 3.
A joint political document would mean that the two chairmen have the same strategy for taking the party forward while the separate ones would mean that there is a difference in opinion on the strategy and the one adopted by the Standing Committee and the Central Committee would prevail.
The minority faction would then have to toe the line of the majority faction—or part ways with the party.
But if what Oli said at Wednesday’s Secretariat meeting is anything to go by, he is likely to provide a point-wise rebuttal to Dahal’s political document. In his paper, Dahal has levelled serious charges against Oli and demanded that the latter “make a sacrifice” for the party unity.
Oli may reiterate his stance that he would resign if the rival faction proves the charges or else the accuser has to step down, in a clear indication that Dahal should step down as “executive chair” if he fails to back his allegations with evidence.
If Oli maintains a hard position, confrontation will escalate, say party insiders. In that case, the Dahal-Nepal faction will try to put a squeeze on Oli by ramming decisions through the party committees on the basis of majority.
“The Dahal-Nepal faction is for taking decisions through majority votes,” said Devendra Poudel, a Standing Committee member. “All depends on how Oli’s document will come—whether he wants to patch up or not.”
In the 445-member Central Committee, which is scheduled to meet on December 10, the Dahal-Nepal faction holds the clear majority. In the Standing Committee, however, the Dahal-Nepal faction may have to struggle to achieve a majority.
Though mistrust between Oli and Dahal has reached a point from where a detente looks unlikely, insiders say both of them do not want to be seen as the cause for the party split.
Second rung leaders have been pushing for saving the party unity, but their call seems to be getting lost in the din of accusations and counter-accusations between their chairs.
“Now Oli will have to come up with a proposal of power sharing as the five Secreteriat members have already told him to sacrifice,” said Beduram Bhusal, a Standing Committee member close to Nepal. “If he fails, the majority of the party committees will decide what they feel appropriate and that could also be relieving him of both the positions. So it’s up to Oli to decide his fate.”
According to Ghanashyam Bhusal, a Standing Committee member and a minister in the Oli Cabinet, the Dahal-Nepal faction’s issues are political but they have not been able to prove that their concerns are political. “And Oli has been trying to prove that they are upping the ante for power,” said Bhusal. “This is the crux of the problem.”
Until Dahal made serious allegations against Oli, the Dahal-Nepal faction’s demands revolved around establishing the system in the party and making Oli follow the party decisions. But since the charges, things have taken a turn for worse in the ruling party.
“If the conflict is for power-sharing then the fight will end with the sharing of positions,” said Minister Bhusal. “Things could go that way.”
Dahal-Nepal faction leaders insist that they have had enough of Oli’s ways and will not give up on their stand.
“There is no space for Dahal-Nepal to backtrack, and withdrawing the document is impossible. Therefore, they are for removing Oli from at least one position,” said Maheswor Dahal, a Central Committee member. “The document of opponents demands resignation from both the positions but it depends on how Oli responds.”
According to him, if Oli is ready to sacrifice, the party will move ahead smoothly but if he comes up with more allegations, he could be asked to resign from both the positions.
“Oli will have to follow what the party committees decide,” said Dahal.
Voices within the party against Oli’s ways are strong.
“The Dahal-Nepal faction will make Oli practically realise that he is not above the party committees,” said Khimlal Devkota, a Central Committee member. “Oli used to say he was above the party and kept on ignoring the party's decisions. But now he will be forced to follow them.”
Leaders close to Oli have been saying that taking decisions on the majority basis will mean more crises for the party.
“I have suggested chairman Dahal move ahead on the basis of the latest [September 11] decisions of the Standing Committee that both chairs run the party and the government in consultation,” said Nembang, a Standing Committee member close to Oli, who had met Dahal on Friday.
“If the other faction tries to take decisions through the majority, the party will then move towards a split.”