Dahal’s reconciliatory gesture means that PM Oli will stay in power and govern both the government and the party as he also holds the post of party chairman.
KATHMANDU, July 21: The month-long row within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has taken a new twist after Prime Minister K P Oli promised Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to extend his support during the party’s unity general convention, likely to be held within a year.
Although both the sides have refused to divulge any further details about the understanding, Chairman Dahal, who earlier insisted for the resignation of Prime Minister Oli from the posts of both prime minister and the party’s chairman, has softened his tone in recent days, mainly after Oli’s proposal to hold the party’s unity general convention by mid-December.
The Standing Committee meeting that was deferred for the seventh time earlier amid intra-party row that surfaced after the rival faction led by Dahal sought resignation of Prime Minister Oli was finally held on Tuesday. But, Chairman Dahal and leaders close to him did not raise the issue of the resignation of Prime Minister Oli, leaving senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and leaders close to him ‘suspicious’ over the understanding reached between Oli and Dahal.
NCP Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha said the Standing Committee meeting on Tuesday was put off for July 28 after taking a decision to mobilize party’s leaders and cadres for the rescue and rehabilitation of people displaced by floods and landslides in different parts of the country. Only two members Pampha Bhusal and Keshab Badal had addressed the meeting on concurrent issues.
The decision of Chairman Dahal to stop short of demanding immediate resignation of Prime Minister Oli comes amid mounting pressure not to push the party towards a split. There are worries within the NCP that the single largest party in parliament could see a split after Prime Minister Oli threatened to split the party if he was unceremoniously ousted from the post of prime minister.
As youth leaders within the party even launched a campaign to save the ‘party unity’, Chairman Dahal, who was backed by senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and Bam Dev Gautam, was put on the backfoot. Party insiders believe that Dahal may have shown a reconciliatory gesture after realizing that his political career could be uncertain without support of Oli, who still commands good strength in the party.
Prime Minister Oli and Chairman Dahal had reached Shital Niwas on July 18--the same day Prime Minister Oli proposed to hold the party’s general convention by mid-December. Many have described this as an attempt to keep President Bhandari as an ‘eyewitness’ of the understanding reached between the two leaders. “Although Dahal has refuted having reached any agreement, we strongly believe that there has been some understanding between Oli and Dahal on power sharing within the party,” said a leader close to senior leader Nepal.
Although both Oli and Dahal have not divulged further details about their understanding, Chairman Dahal shared at a meeting with the leaders of the erstwhile CPN (Maoist Center) that Prime Minister Oli had offered him the chairmanship through upcoming general convention if he accepted to embrace the People’s Multi-party Democracy—a political ideology propounded by late Madan Bhandari.
Leaders close to Nepal also suspect that Prime Minister Oli could have also assured Dahal to support him to be elected as the prime minister after Oli. Chairman Dahal on his part also believes that Oli’s support is a must to resolve the issues of transitional justice and a corruption case that is pending at the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).
Party insiders said Prime Minister Oli in recent days has intensified efforts to bring leaders close to Dahal to his side. The former Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa and Lekh Raj Bhatta have openly supported Oli, while a number of youth leaders including Janardan Sharma and Barsha Man Pun are equally close to Prime Minister Oli. “Chairman Dahal wanted to force Oli’s ouster with the support of rival faction leaders. But as he seems to have realized lately that it would be counterproductive to his ambition, Dahal is apparently trying to make a compromise,” a leader close to Nepal observed.
The erstwhile CPN-UML-led by Oli and the CPN (Maoist Center) Dahal announced an electoral alliance to form a new party called NCP on the eve of the election to the federal parliament in November, 2017. This made it possible for the NCP to secure nearly a two-thirds majority in parliament, reducing the strength of the main opposition party, Nepali Congress, to the distant second party.
Although the two sides then agreed to hold the unity general convention within two years, they have not been able to accomplish the task even as nearly three years have passed by since the announcement. Party insiders say Dahal has a strong desire to be the elected chairman of the unified party and thus the assurance from Oli to elevate him to that post could have made him show a conciliatory gesture.
It is still not certain whether the unity general convention will be held by mid-December as senior leaders Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal and Narayan Kaji Shrestha are skeptic about it. But one thing is certain now: All three major factions within the NCP led by Oli, Dahal and Nepal will work hard to consolidate their strength in the party as Prime Minister Oli will stay in power and govern both the government and the party as he also holds the post of party chairman.