KATHMANDU, Feb 29: A majority of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Secretariat members have mounted pressure on Prime Minister KP Oli, who is also chairman of the party, to nominate Bamdev Gautam as an upper house member as decided earlier by the secretariat. Oli is seen to be on the defensive now that his once-trusted colleague Bishnu Poudel has also joined the gang of top NCP leaders demanding that Gautam be picked for the upper house.
Among the nine-member secretariat, the party’s apex body, only Ishwar Pokhrel and Ram Bahadur Thapa are standing with Oli over this issue. The remaining members – Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Poudel and Gautam himself – are standing against Oli.
Oli is in favor of giving continuity to Yuba Raj Khatiwada as upper house member and finance minister. Khatiwada’s term in the upper house expires on March 3. Although he didn’t reject the proposal to name Gautam as upper house member during the secretariat meeting, he later called Nepal over to his residence and informed him that he had already recommended to the president to nominate Khatiwada to the upper house seat.
Arguing that some leaders of his own party are working to weaken the government and that it is the prime minister’s prerogative to decide whom to recommend for upper house membership, Oli is sticking by his choice of Khatiwada.
In an apparent move to counter the prime minister, Dahal, who is now leading the anti-Oli lineup in the party over the issue, invited the party secretariat members to his Khumaltar residence Friday. The party leaders gathered there warned Oli that there would be consequences if the secretariat decision to nominate Gautam for the upper house was not implemented.
In an attempt to resolve the deadlock, the Khumaltar meeting reached an understanding to let Khatiwada continue as finance minister for another six months — which will give him time to present the next budget. If Oli still continues to oppose the secretariat decision over Gautam, they have warned of registering a vote of no-confidence against him and unseating him as prime minister, according to sources privy to developments.
Dahal has hinted at getting tough if Oli continues to stick to his guns.
“I have not imagined that he wouldn’t recommend [Gautam]. What if he doesn’t recommend? I don’t want to enter into that prospect,” Dahal told reporters in Chitwan on Friday.
Citing the existing constitutional provisions, Dahal said anyone can lead the finance ministry for up to six month even without being a member of the upper house of parliament.
In recent months, Oli has been facing a series of setbacks as top leaders of the party continue to gang up against him. It was against Oli’s wish that the Dahal camp was successful in electing Agni Sapkota to the position of speaker of the lower house.
Oli also was not for forming any taskforce to study the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant deal. Instead, he wanted the MCC agreement endorsed by parliament at the earliest. But under pressure from the others, Oli was forced to agree to a taskforce, which is headed by former prime minister Khanal. The panel has now recommended to the government not to endorse the US aid compact through parliament without first making some changes to it.
The taskforce recommendation has landed Oli in a fix and the fate of projects earmarked for implementation under the $500 million US grant is now hanging in the balance.
Feeling weakened within his party, Oli had summoned Nepal to Baluwatar to inquire about ongoing developments therein. “The two leaders discussed about party building and recent political developments,” said the prime minister’s press advisor, Surya Thapa.