Oli makes concession keeping door ajar for party unityUML revives the two-month-old task force to woo the Nepal faction which is currently supporting the opposition alliance.
When CPN-UML chair KP Sharma Oli on Saturday served a deadline to the Madhav Nepal faction of his party to withdraw the support it had extended to the opposition alliance, it was highly unlikely the dissidents would oblige. Firstly because their support had already become a case in the court of law and secondly, withdrawing the support would have reflected badly on leaders of the Nepal faction.
While serving the deadline, Oli had declared that if the Nepal faction failed to follow the party directive to withdraw its support to the opposition alliance, the door to its return to the UML would be closed.
But that was not to be.
As soon as the deadline expired at 5pm on Monday, the UML revived an earlier task force, thereby keeping the door still ajar for the Nepal faction to return to the party.
But in doing so, the party that is governing the country has also become an object of ridicule, as its leaders–from both sides–have failed to take any concrete decision.
“We have revived the 10-member task force which held its meeting today itself,” Subas Chandra Nembang, a Standing Committee member and one of Oli’s close aides, told the Post. “This is an attempt to keep the options for maintaining the party unity intact.”
The task force was formed on May 16 so as to patch up differences between Oli and Nepal.
The Nepal faction had been demanding that the party structures and organisations should be revived to the status of pre-May 16, 2018 days.
The UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) had merged on May 18, 2018 to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). But on March 7, the Supreme Court invalidated the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and revived the UML and the Maoist Centre.
The Nepal faction, which had supported Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba’s prime ministerial bid on May 21, has signed a petition filed by the opposition alliance against Oli’s same day’s decision of dissolving the House.
As many as 23 lawmakers from the dissolved House have signed the Deuba-led opposition alliance’s petition.
In a bid to placate the Nepal faction, Oli on Saturday had announced that he was ready to turn the clock back, and revive the Central Committee which existed before May 16, 2018. But the Nepal faction called it too little too late. Oli had also dissolved the 10th national convention organising committee.
After a lukewarm response from the Nepal faction, Oli served the ultimatum on Saturday, asking the dissidents to abide by his orders by 5pm Monday.
Insiders say after the Nepal faction stood its ground, Oli was left with no option than to make a concession, and revival of the task force just shows that.
Oli’s decision to revive the task force, in a bid to make peace with Nepal, also coincides with the completion of the hearing on House dissolution by the Constitutional Bench, which is most likely to pass a verdict on July 12.
Many believe that the mostly likely verdict will be against the House dissolution.
Sources within the UML say Oli is pulling out all the stops to bring the Nepal faction into his fold, as he will need the dissidents support when the House is restored.
According to sources in the party, Oli is also sending feelers to the dissidents that they would be given “good portfolios” in the Cabinet if the House is restored.
Oli currently is trying to win over the dissidents so as to block Deuba from becoming prime minister. If the court restores the House and orders Oli to go for a floor test as mandated by the constitution, he will surely fail if the Nepal faction does not vote for him. If the Nepal faction continues its support to the opposition alliance, Deuba will become prime minister, which Oli wants to block.
According to UML leaders familiar with recent fast-paced developments in the party, the plan to revive the two-month-old task force, which was almost dead, was worked out during a meeting between Oli and Bhim Rawal, a leader now with the Nepal faction, on Sunday. On Monday morning, Rawal briefed Nepal about his meeting with Oli.
A leader close to Oli said that Nepal then sought a roadmap for party unity.
“After Nepal refused to hold talks with Oli, we decided to let the task force hold talks to come up with some kind of roadmap,” the leader told the Post seeking anonymity.
On May 16, after a one-on-one, Oli and Nepal had agreed to form a 10-member task force to resolve the party disputes. The taskforce held just one meeting four days after its formation and later could not continue after the party axe fell on Rawal.
Nembang, Bishnu Poudel, Pradip Gyawali, Bishnu Rimal and Shankar Pokharel are the members in the task force from the Oli camp while Rawal, Surendra Pandey, Raghuji Pant, Ghanshyam Bhusal and Gokarna Bista represent the Nepal faction.
At least two party leaders from both factions told the Post that since the Constitutional Bench has decided to sit next on July 12, Oli has got at least a week to negotiate with the Nepal faction.
“Our support to Deuba will remain until the court process is completed,” said Pant, one of the members of the task force. “Our position is clear, we will not withdraw the signatures. We will wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict.”
Another leader from the Nepal faction said that Oli wanted to build pressure on the court by setting a deadline for the dissidents to withdraw the signatures.
Bishnu Rijal, a Central Committee member who was earlier with the Nepal faction but has now switched sides with Oli, said that the UML’s unity is directly related to the Supreme Court’s verdict on House dissolution.
“It has become apparent that the Supreme Court is not going to uphold the House dissolution, hence Oli is reaching out to the Nepal faction,” Rijal told the Post.
The task force is set to hold its next meeting on Tuesday.