Power-sharing deal within the party could save the party from a split as Prime Minister Oli, too, does not want a split.
KATHMANDU, July 3: The intra-party disputes within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) took a new twist on Thursday after Prime Minister KP Oli decided to prorogue the ongoing session of the federal parliament. The decision of Prime Minister Oli, who is lately under pressure to quit from power, has left many asking a question: What will happen next?
Ruling party leaders close to Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal suspect that the move of Prime Minister K P Oli could be aimed at splitting the party by skipping parliament. They believe that Prime Minister Oli, who was earlier forced to shelve an ordinance after controversy, could introduce a fresh ordinance that would make it easy to split the party.
Rival faction leaders within NCP claim that Prime Minister Oli intends to introduce an ordinance that paves the way for splitting the party if a faction wanting to split the party commands at least 20 percent strength in the party’s parliamentary committee and central committee.
Although rival faction leaders anticipated some counter moves from Prime Minister Oli, especially after 30 of the 44 Standing Committee members gathered in Jhamsikhel, Lalitpur on Wednesday to exert pressure on Prime Minister Oli to step down, they did not anticipate Oli would decide to prorogue the house session. The Citizenship Bill and Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact are pending in parliament for endorsement.
Talking to media persons after a brief Standing Committee meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Baluwatar on Thursday, NCP Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha said the latest move of the government had raised a serious question if the unity of the party had already fallen in a serious jeopardy. He hinted that the party could see a split if the top leaders failed to mend their differences.
However, leaders close to Prime Minister Oli said that the NCP has not yet reached the stage of split. The two sides are scheduled to have decisive talks to settle their differences on Friday. "Prime Minister Oli may take new measures if he is forced to step down from power. Although he is ready to make power-sharing deals within the party, the Prime Minister has already conveyed that he is not ready to step down from the post of prime minister and the party chairman as demanded by the rival faction," said a leader, asking not to be named.
As a part of their efforts to settle the intra-party differences, a group of leaders close to Prime Minister Oli had reached the residence of Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal in Khumaltar on Thursday morning. Although there was an agreement to continue further discussion to settle the dispute, the move of Prime Minister Oli to call a cabinet meeting and decide to prorogue the house session has raised serious doubts within the rival faction over his next move.
Prime Minister Oli’s decision to prorogue the house session on Thursday came despite a request not to do so by Chairman Dahal. After learning about the prime minister’s plan, Dahal had called the party’s General Secretary Bishnu Paudel, a close confidante of Prime Minister Oli, over the phone, asking him not to prorogue the budget session.
But as Prime Minister Oli did not heed Dahal’s request, the latter himself had reached the Prime Minister’s Official Residence in Baluwatar, where the Standing Committee meeting was also set to begin, to discuss the matter. But Prime Minister Oli refused to meet him.
Dahal had then reached the President's Office at Shital Niwas to discuss the latest political development and ask President Bhandari not to work in favor of one of the factions of the party. After his meeting with President Bhandari, Chairman Dahal briefed the Standing Committee that the president had assured him that no ordinance would be authenticated any time soon.
But the way President Bhandari took a decision to prorogue the House session within an hour after the recommendation made by the cabinet, NCP leaders close to the rival faction led by Dahal and Nepal are worried that Prime Minister Oli may take any decision that would push the party toward a split. This has made the rival faction rethink their strategy of exerting pressure on Oli to step down from the post of prime minister and party chairman by ensuring majority in the party’s secretariat and standing committee.
NCP leaders close to Prime Minister Oli said he is bent on splitting the party and reviving the CPN-UML, which he led before the merger with the erstwhile CPN (Maoist Center) to form a new party called NCP, if he is ‘humiliated’ further by the rival faction. "The decision to prorogue the house session means that Prime Minister Oli does not have to face a vote of no-confidence motion in parliament. This also allows him to introduce an ordinance that he wants to consolidate his hold on power," said a leader, asking not to be named.
As he will have at least a six-month time until a new house session is summoned, Prime Minister Oli may take different measures including cabinet reshuffle or new power-sharing deal within the party to appease his rivals. Prime Minister Oli now could try to bring some leaders close to Dahal and Nepal to his side to ensure his majority in the party's committee before he takes any new decision.
Although Oli and Dahal are not even on speaking terms since a few days, the second-rung leaders of both sides have expedited informal talks to settle the differences and save the party unity. "The sides will hold decisive talks tomorrow [Friday]. The possibility of a new ordinance and the party-split will be over if there is some agreement," a leader close to PM Oli said.
As such, Prime Minister Oli has already conveyed his readiness to reshuffle the cabinet, change a few chief ministers and give appropriate responsibilities to leaders from rival factions in the party.
What happens next within the ruling NCP, according to party insiders, now depends largely on the move of senior leader Nepal, who may have to lose a lot should Oli decide to split the NCP and revive the erstwhile CPN-UML. There are speculations that most former UML leaders and a section of Maoist leaders would go with Oli.
Leader Nepal is miffed already with Oli, since he was undermined and humiliated by Prime Minister Oli in the past few years. But he also knows very well that it is not easy to work with Dahal (given his unstable nature and desire to persistently stay in power) either. As two top leaders-- Dahal and Nepal-- have started weighing their options (amid fear of new ordinance and the imminent party split) keeping in view their relatively longer political career than Oli’s, the NCP has still not reached the stage of a split. It is not only Dahal and Nepal but also Prime Minister Oli who does not want a split of the party that commands nearly two-thirds seats in the federal parliament.