BIRATNAGAR, March 7: The anti-Oli camp in Province 1 is getting weaker as senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal, who are considered as the ones capable to challenge party chief Oli, have engaged in infighting among themselves. Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli's increasing influence in the central politics has also sidelined his opponents in Province 1, which is home province of the UML chief.
"Infighting is going on in our group," said a provincial assembly member close to anti-Oli camp, adding, "This will either weaken us further or it will help us to move ahead in an organized manner."
UML leaders standing against Oli are so scared that they even don't dare to speak against the wrongdoings of Oli in public forums. "The government has not got full shape and parliamentary committees are yet to be formed. More importantly, efforts to unite with the Maoists are underway," said the provincial member, adding, "Given the context, who will be ready to bear the risk in his or her political career."
Even as UML leaders have not engaged in public debate over intra-party differences growing in Province 1, this was reflected while electing chief minister of the province. Out of the total 51 provincial assembly members, 31 were close to Nepal while only 20 were said to be loyal to party Chairman and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
But Sherdhan Rai, who was fielded from Oli camp, defeating Bhim Acharya, the leader supposed to be close to Nepal group. Acharya secured just 24 votes while Rai got 26. Infighting within the anti-Oli camp is considered as the major reason behind Acharya's defeat.
Leaders close to Nepal say Khanal, Asta Laxmi Shakya, Ghanshyam Bhusal, Surendra Pandey, Rabin Koirala and Jagganath Khatiwada among others were in favor of fielding Jeevan Ghimire as CM candidate instead of Acharya. Nepal and party secretary Yogesh Bhattarai, however, stood in favor of picking Acharya citing seniority.
Division within the anti-Oli camp ultimately helped Oli's trusted aide to emerge victorious. Dismayed with the party's decision to pick Acharya as CM candidate, some leaders including Rabin Koirala, Jagannath Khatiwada and Bhaskar Kafle lobbied for Rai in the run-up to the CM election. This shattered Acharya's hope to claim the post of CM.
"Acharya's wrong decision in fielding candidates in the recent elections and his opportunist move weakened the Nepal camp," said a leader requesting anonymity.
Soon after being elected chief minister of the provincial government, Rai appointed Ghimire as Social Development Minister in a bid to bolster Oli camp in the province. Relations between Ghimire and Acharya are now soured. In recent days, Acharya is saying that he is no longer with any political group while Ghimire is leading the anti-Oli group.
Ghimire organized an informal meeting in Biratnagar last week. Very few UML leaders attended the meeting. Acharya, however, was absent in the meeting.