A birthday cake, a bitter shouting match and a sour note at the endAs the Nepal Communist Party Secretariat reconvenes, there is no conciliation in sight as the conflict continues to be a battle of egos between the party chairs.
As the Nepal Communist Party Secretariat members sat for a meeting on Tuesday, they cut the cake—to mark General Secretary Bishnu Poudel’s birthday—ate it and immediately after, descended into a bitter shouting match.
Party chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli opened the meeting, lashing out at other chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and demanded that the latter withdraw his political document and apologise. Oli has dubbed Dahal’s document, presented at the November 13 Secretariat meeting, a “collection of indictments” stemming from the latter’s personal grudges and limitless frustration, guided by vested interests.
“As soon as the meeting started, Oli demanded that Dahal’s document be withdrawn with an apology,” a Secretariat member told the Post. “Except party General Secretary Bishnu Poudel, all other Secretariat members turned down Oli’s call.”
Dahal then, according to the member, interrupted charging Oli with playing factional politics.
“You [Oli] might be trying to incite us,” the member quoted Dahal as saying. “But we want an amicable solution and we want to reach a conclusion through discussions.”
Party insiders say reconciliation in the party is not possible anytime soon, as the two chairs appear to be in a hostile mode. The fight in the ruling party now has boiled down to a battle of egos between the two chairmen, according to them.
According to Secretariat members, Dahal is adamant about holding a discussion on his political paper, which Oli says deserves outright discarding.
The Dahal-Nepal faction says since political papers of both the chairs are formally with the Secretariat, discussions on them have already started.
“Majority of members are in favour of discussing the papers so discussion will continue,” said Narayan Kaji Shrestha, a Secretariat member and party spokesperson.
Dahal has demanded that whether his document should be discussed by the Secretariat or not should be decided by the meeting. But Oli appears to be dead against letting the Secretariat discuss Dahal’s paper.
According to a Secretariat member, who is on Dahal’s side, even Ishwar Pokhrel, who is close to Oli, said that discussions on the proposal cannot be blocked.
“[Ram Bahadur] Thapa was of the view that since the document has already entered the Secretariat, the committee must discuss it,” the member told the Post.
The nine-member Secretariat is vertically divided, with Dahal having the majority.
Senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal, party vice-chair Bamdev Gautam and Shrestha are on Dahal’s side.
Poudel and Pokhrel are clearly on Oli’s side. Thapa, who is described by party members as a fence-sitter, so far has remained with Oli.
During the Maoist “people’s war”, Thapa and Dahal used to be comrades in arms. Though Thapa had parted ways with the Maoist party in 2012, he returned to Dahal’s fold in 2016. He is currently home minister in the Oli Cabinet.
The next meeting has been scheduled for 1pm Wednesday. Oli, however, is not keen on attending the meeting. This could put the Standing Committee meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday, into limbo.
“Oli has said he cannot attend the meeting as he has pressing issues to deal with,” said Subas Nembang, a Standing Committee member and Oli’s close confidante. “I don’t think the Standing Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday can happen, as we are yet to start preparations for the same.”
Insiders say Oli has been trying to avoid the Secretariat meeting as he fears any decision against him on the majority basis. Multiple leaders over the past few days have told the Post that the Dahal-Nepal faction will not hesitate to get a decision endorsed if Oli refuses to follow the party system.
The Dahal-Nepal faction has been piling pressure on Oli to step down.
Oli had agreed for a Secretariat meeting on November 13 only after multiple requests by the Dahal-Nepal faction, at least two informal meetings of the Secretariat and his meeting with the President.
But for Oli, known as a master politician, Dahal’s political document was a godsend, as he used that as a tool to divert his opponents from whatever they were aiming at.
At the November 18 meeting, Oli said the charges against him were so serious that if proven, he should not continue as party chair and prime minister. “If the accuser [Dahal] cannot back his charges with evidence, he should step down [as executive chair],” said Oli.
At the November 28 meeting, Oli went on the offensive in his 38-point rebuttal to Dahal.
Wednesday’s Secretariat and Thursday’s Standing Committee meetings are now uncertain.
Shrestha, the party spokesperson, told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting that the party has not discussed anything regarding changing the date for the Standing Committee meeting.
According to Shrestha, the ultimate goal is resolving the crisis the party is currently facing.
“We have not discussed whether to discuss the proposals by the two chairs separately or whether there should be a joint proposal,” said Shrestha. “Leaders are of the view that formal and informal discussions should continue and they have started.”
A leader present in the meeting said Oli had proposed holding the next meeting after 10 to 15 days so that informal discussions could be held in between.
“But members did not agree, saying both formal and informal discussions should continue simultaneously,” said the leader. “Oli then walked out, saying there is no meaning of such meetings.”