Oli skips Standing Committee meeting as Dahal gets upper handA cornered Oli sends a letter instead, accusing his opponents of moving goalposts and sowing the seeds of division.
The crisis in the ruling Nepal Communist Party has further deepened with chair KP Sharma Oli clearly sliding into minority while his opponent Pushpa Kamal Dahal managed to get the upper hand.
The party held its Standing Committee meeting on Sunday despite Oli’s dissension. Oli, also the prime minister, did not attend the meeting.
Dahal presided over the meeting and took the opportunity to chide Oli, saying how the latter continuously avoided party meetings. But before Dahal’s speech, Ishwar Pokhrel read out a letter sent by Oli in which he alleged that the Dahal faction was playing foul and showing the seeds of division in the party.
After Dahal’s speech, Sunday’s Standing Committee meeting ended with a decision to hold the next meeting after seven days.
“The sixth Standing Committee meeting of the party, convened under the chairmanship of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has concluded that the sole agenda of the party is finding a resolution to the internal conflict,” Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the party spokesperson, told reporters after the meeting. “Dahal has made an appeal to all the members to hold serious discussions keeping the current crisis the party is facing at the centre and find a solution.”
The party has allotted seven days for the members to study all the political papers and other documents, including the letters [by Oli].
In his letter sent to the Standing Committee explaining why he could not attend the meeting, Oli reiterated that Dahal’s proposal presented at the November 13 Secretariat meeting is nothing but a collection of indictments and that it cannot be tabled at party meetings for discussion.
“I have already made my position clear that the allegation paper presented by Dahal cannot be discussed at any party committee,” reads Oli’s letter. “I continue to stick to my stance that the document should be withdrawn unconditionally.”
Oli has also said that some leaders tried to move the goalposts and such actions are not only wrong—morally and politically—but also have the potential to sow the seeds of division. He, however, expressed his hope that the Standing Committee members would use their wisdom and take initiatives accordingly to resolve the crisis, just like they did the last time on September 11.
Party members say the way the situation is unfolding is tilting the scale in the Dahal faction’s favour.
In the 44-member Standing Committee, the Dahal faction, backed by Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam and Shrestha, holds the majority with around 30 members.
While Oli appears adamant, refusing to budge, the Dahal-Nepal faction is planning to take the decisions on the majority basis, taking issues from the Standing Committee to the Central Committee.
“If the party tries to take decisions on the majority basis, the party will split,” said Haribol Gajurel, a Standing Committee member and former Maoist leader.
Cracks in the party have become so deep that only a miracle can save the party unity, say insiders.
Oli so far has not shown any signs of bowing down to the Dahal faction’s pressure.
Oli’s letter on Sunday, according to party members, carries both messages—calls for party unity as well as warnings.
“But things have moved a bit far. Oli is still trying to threaten party leaders by sending such letters,” said Ashta Laxmi Shakya, a Standing Committee member. “But party meetings won’t wait for Oli now. Today’s meeting is proof that an individual leader’s arrogance is nothing before the party.”
According to Shakya, Oli, however, won’t dare split the party.
“But as is his wont, he will keep on trying to issue threats to party members,” Shakya told the Post. “But that tactic won’t work now.”
The one option that Oli will be left with if the opponent factions keep piling pressure on him is stepping down—either as party chair or prime minister.
Oli will try to stop his opponents as long as he can, but if the situation becomes untenable for him, he will have to relent.
But many say since a week is a long time in politics, anything can happen and there are also chances that Oli and Dahal can talk things out to find an amicable solution before the party reaches the verge of a split.
“Oli’s letter today clearly shows he is not going to capitulate very easily,” said Mani Thapa, also a Standing Committee member. “He has taken a firm stance and is weighing things up, including the possible moves by the Dahal-Nepal faction.”
The Dahal-Nepal faction’s strategy, however, appears to be straightforward. They want to hold discussions on both the proposals by the two chairs at the Standing Committee and make a decision to leave all the outstanding issues to the Central Committee to decide.
Since the Dahal-Nepal faction holds the majority in the 445-member Central Committee also, it looks confident that it will have its way when issues go to the party’s highest body for the decision.
The party’s Central Committee meeting, scheduled for December 10, now has been rescheduled for December 20, as the next Standing Committee meeting will be convened on December 13.
“Dahal will try to convince Oli to reconcile over the next seven days,” said Matrika Yadav, a Standing Committee member close to Dahal. “If Oli refuses to oblige, he will be left with just two options—abide by the party decisions or step down.”