To reconcile or fight? Ruling party factions devise strategiesDahal camp’s decision to distribute his political document to lower committees irks leaders close to Oli who is writing a paper of his own.
The ruling Nepal Communist Party seems to be bracing for a massive face-off between its chairmen KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
In what is described as “a regular thing”, the Dahal faction has been distributing his political document, which has levelled serious allegations against Oli, to the party’s lower committees, a move which could be the thin edge of the wedge.
“The decision to take Dahal’s political document to the lower committees of the party was jointly decided by the majority of Secretariat members,” said Devendra Poudel, a Standing Committee member close to Dahal.
After Dahal presented his political document at the November 14 Secretariat meeting, accusing Oli of failing on multiple fronts, Oli at November 18 Secretariat meeting sought 10 days to write his own political document.
The next Secretariat meeting is scheduled for November 28. At the last meeting, Oli said that if charges levelled against him are proven, he should not continue as party chair and the prime minister. But if the accuser [Dahal] fails to prove the allegations, he must step down [as executive chair], said Oli.
The Oli faction has described the Dahal faction’s move to distribute his political document to the party’s lower committees as “uncalled for”.
“They [Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal] are using all means to split the party and sending the political document submitted by Dahal to lower committees unilaterally, in a clear breach of the the party system,” said Subas Nembang, a Standing Committee member and close confidante of Oli. “They are moving in the wrong direction. We had requested them not to take any step that affects the party unity.”
Even though everyone in the ruling party is never tired of saying the party unity must be protected, both factions led by Oli and Dahal have been engaged in their machinations. Insiders say no one wants to be seen as the cause for the party split, but as far as divisions are concerned, they are already deep in the party.
The fight between Oli and Dahal has already reached the lower levels of the party. The recent incident in Chitwan where a group of cadres chanted slogans against Surendra Pandey, also a Standing Committee member, is just indicative of how bitter the relations have become in the party, according to insiders.
In the current equation in the party, Pandey is in the Dahal faction, which is backed by senior leaders Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Bamdeve Gautam and Narayan Kaji Shrestha.
In the nine-member party Secretariat, Oli has the support of three members and Dahal has the backing of four.
The Dahal faction hence is in a bid to get a decision against Oli endorsed through the Secretariat with majority votes. The Dahal faction this time seems bent on making Oli resign at least from one post–either party chair or prime minister.
Insiders say though efforts are being made for reconciliation and if the situation takes a turn for the worse, Oli will keep the prime ministership and step down as party chair.
“Despite promising to keep the party unity intact, the Dahal-Nepal faction is doing the opposite,” said Nembang. “I had personally spoken with chairman [Dahal] and he told me that the string of the party unity will remain intact. But his action shows something else.”
Leaders close to the Dahal-Nepal faction, however, say there is nothing wrong in taking the political document to lower committees, as the party rank and file needs to know what is going on in the party.
“And it’s not just Dahal’s political document,” said a Standing Committee member close to Dahal. “We made a collection of various documents after leaders and cadres said they could not find those online.”
According to the member, distributing those documents to the party rank and file is aimed at making everyone aware of what the fight is for and give them an opportunity to arrive at a conclusion on their own.
The Oli faction so far has played his card close to his chest. One of the options, some say, is that Oli might strike a conciliatory note by presenting his political document without chastising his opponent much and calling for “self-criticism”.
A member from Oli’s private secretariat told the Post that Bishnu Rimal, Oli’s chief advisor; Chief Minister of Lumbini Province and Secretariat member Shanker Pokharel and Nembang are helping Oli write his political document.
“Oli will respond to Dahal’s political document through his paper,” said Surya Thapa, Oli’s press adviser. “There is no way we can know the content at this stage.”
Many in the ruling party are making efforts through different channels, asking both Oli and Dahal not to create a ruckus at the Secretariat meeting, as there are high-level visits lined up from both the neighbours—India and China.
The party is holding its crucial meeting a day after Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringala concludes his visit and a day before Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe arrives in Kathmandu.
Analysts have already been pointing at the dangers of rising geopolitical games in Nepal due to infighting in the ruling party.
A Standing Committee member said he believed the top leadership is sensitive about not washing their dirty linen in public.
“It’s not a good idea to wrangle just ahead of the visit of a high-level official who is also a well-wisher of our party,” said the member who did not wish to be named. “As I see it, Oli will present his political document at the November 28 Secretariat meeting. Members will take time to study the document. The Secretariat will deliberate on both
Oli and Dahal’s documents at the next meeting.”
Tika R Pradhan contributed reporting.