Oli and Nepal hold one-on-one meeting in signs of rapprochementThe meeting comes amid talks that the Maoist Centre is planning to withdraw its support to the government.
CPN-UML chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal held talks on Wednesday, for the first time in more than a month, in what is seen by many as signs of rapprochement between the two leaders.
The meeting was held in an upscale hotel in Kathmandu and was set up by second-rung leaders from the two factions, according to insiders.
“The two top leaders held a meeting this evening,” said Ghanashyam Bhusal, a Standing Committee member close to Nepal. “The meeting was held in a cordial environment.”
Relations between Oli and Nepal had soured after the latter sided with Pushpa Kamal Dahal to unseat the former when the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) was intact. However, after the Supreme Court on March 7 invalidated the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and revived the UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), Nepal returned to the UML. The court decision, in effect, broke the Dahal-Nepal alliance.
The Oli-Nepal meeting on Wednesday comes at a time when talks were ongoing about the Maoist Centre withdrawing the support it lent the UML back in February 2018.
The Madhav Nepal faction, backed by senior leader Jhala Nath Khanal, was also mulling breaking away with Oli, as the party chair was leaving no stone unturned to drive them into a corner.
Even though the Nepal faction had returned to the UML under Oli after the court’s March 7 order, it was trying to build its own parallel structure within the party in what it said to continue its struggle against “the Oli tendency”.
On March 29, Oli, who has already vested sweeping powers in him, suspended Nepal and Bhim Rawal from the party’s general membership for six months, accusing them of working against the party unity. On April 1, Oli suspended Ghanashyam Bhusal and Surendra Pandey from the party’s general membership for six months. The charges were the same: that they were working against the party unity. Again on Monday, Oli sought clarification from 27 lawmakers of the Nepal faction, including Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal, and five members of the Karnali Provincial Assembly. Last week, four Karnali Provincial Assembly members belonging to the Nepal faction had defied the party whip to vote in favour Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi, much to Oli’s chagrin.
Those UML members who had crossed the floor were rewarded by Shahi the following day, when they were sworn in as ministers in the Karnali government.
The last time Oli and Nepal had met was on March 15. But both refused to budge from their stances.
Wednesday’s meeting comes at a time when Oli was preparing to take action against leaders close to Nepal.
“I think Oli wants to show that it’s him who took the initiative to mend fences,” said Bhusal. “I don’t think there will be any substantial outcome immediately from today’s talks between Oli and Nepal.”