Congress lawmakers against backing Oli and rather for leading new governmentBut with a formal proposal yet to be made to the party and the Nepal Communist Party besieged with legal complications, it is in no hurry to make a decision.
With the Nepal Communist Party so deeply divided, both its warring factions have offered the Nepali Congress, which has just 63 seats in the 275-member House of Representatives, a chance to lead the government.
If the suggestions of the Nepali Congress lawmakers are anything to go by, it will side with the faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal as the party has already labelled Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s House dissolution move unconstitutional, a position that the Supreme Court also upheld.
“Morally and politically, Congress should not support Oli,” Congress lawmaker Bhimshen Das Pradhan told the Post. “Since the Nepali Congress has already termed the Oli government ‘unconstitutional’ for its involvement in many unconstitutional moves, we cannot support Oli and allow him to continue as the prime minister.”
Not to side with Oli was also the view expressed by the majority of Nepali Congress lawmakers during the Parliamentary Party meeting on Friday.
But they made it clear that the party should join hands with one of the factions only if it gets the opportunity to lead the government.
“The majority of the parliamentarians who spoke during today’s meeting said that the party should not stand in favour of Oli,” Gagan Thapa, a parliamentarian from Kathmandu, told the Post. “They said that Nepali Congress should lead the next government if the opportunity arises.”
According to Thapa, the Congress should first ask for the resignation of Prime Minister Oli.
“Resignation of Prime Minister Oli should be our agenda. Then we should be open to all options but we seem to have dropped the agenda of Oli’s resignation,” Thapa added.
Oli, however, has said that he will not resign but face the House instead.
The Dahal-Nepal faction of Nepal Commuinst Party is expected to register a no-confidence motion against the Oli government when Parliament convenes on Sunday.
Dahal and Nepal are set to meet Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba and some senior leaders of the party on Saturday or Sunday, according to a leader close to Deuba.
Despite the offers of prime minister position from both factions of the Nepal Communist Party, the Nepali Congress is yet to make its position clear.
But not all Congress parliamentarians are of the view that the party should join hands with the Dahal-Nepal faction.
During Friday’s Parliamentary Party meeting, some lawmakers close to Deuba said that Nepali Congress should stay neutral and if necessary, and if the environment is favourable, should support Oli to save his government.
Lawmakers, including Pushpa Bhusal, Bharat Shah, Devendra Raj Kadel, Jip Chhiring Lama and Min Bishowkarma, were of the view that since there is no permanent foe or friend in politics, the Nepali Congress should not stonewall anyone.
“The party should look at various options and if favourable conditions arise, why should we not support Oli,” Bishowkarma told the Post.
According to participants, Deuba, at the start of the meeting, said the party has opted for a wait and see policy and should not take a premature decision on whether to sit in the opposition or lead the next government before carefully watching the moves of both factions of the Nepal Communist Party.
Deuba maintains that the ruling party has not legally split and there are chances that the two factions could come together again.
Some Nepali Congress lawmakers said that both Oli and Dahal are under immense pressure from second-rung leaders of the Nepal Communist Party to reunite again.
“Both Oli and Dahal will not be able to withstand the pressure for party unification beyond 15 to 20 days,” a leader close to Deuba told the Post. “Nepali Congress should therefore take a concrete step to split the Nepal Communist Party.”
There are also those in the Congress who do not agree that the party should join the government, even if it gets the chance to lead it.
Deuba’s rival Ram Chandra Poudel is of the view that as per the people’s mandate, the Nepali Congress should remain in the opposition.
Deuba, probably aware of some opposition in the party and pressure from Oli with whom he reportedly feels closer, called the Parliamentary Party meeting knowing well what Nepali Congress lawmakers will say, a leader close to Poudel told the Post.
“Deuba is probably testing the waters,” the leader said. “He can make an excuse to Oli that he could not convince his party as the majority of the lawmakers refused to support the Oli faction.”
At the moment, the Nepali Congress is in no hurry to make a decision.
It is waiting for the Supreme Court’s verdict on the legitimacy of the Nepal Communist Party.
A case was registered in the Supreme Court against the legitimacy of the Nepal Communist Party by veteran communist party leader Rishi Ram Kattel in 2018 after Oli and Dahal merged the then CPN-UML and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP)—with NCP within brackets—and the Election Commission recognised it. Kattel has claimed that the original Nepal Communist Party belongs to him.
If the Supreme Court recognises Kattel’s Nepal Communist Party, it would mean that the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) goes back to the pre-merger state before May 2018, meaning that there would be CPN-UML and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre).
Then there is also the legitimacy battle between the two factions of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) with the Dahal-Nepal faction urging the Election Commission to recognise it as the legitimate party, claiming a majority in the Central Committee.
If the Election Commission gives the Dahal-Nepal faction legitimacy, it will mean that the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) is legally split.
Deuba, therefore, is yet to play his cards right.
“We will take a decision at an appropriate time,” Bal Krishna Khand, Nepali Congress chief whip, said. “We should not hurry.”