KATHMANDU, Feb 27: Top guns of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) are sharply divided after Prime Minister KP Oli refused to recommend party Vice-chairperson Bamdev Gautam for upper house membership despite a recommendation by the party secretariat meeting on Wednesday.
The party secretariat proposed nominating influential NCP leader Gautam for membership of the National Assembly, but Oli as party chairperson recommended Finance Minister Yuba Raj Khatiwada instead, turning down the party’s decision.
Oli’s rivals in the party have vented their ire at his decision. Within an hour after the NCP secretariat recommended Gautam for the upper house, Oli invited party senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal over and informed him that he had already recommended Khatiwada for the position.
“The decision of the party secretariat came late. I have already written to the president for Khatiwada’s nomination to the position,” a highly placed source at Baluwatar quoted Oli as telling Nepal.
Defense Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, another party top gun, said the secretariat meeting had agreed that Gautam should be nominated for the upper house but not for now. “The secretariat had agreed in principle that Gautam should be picked for the upper house but there was no decision as such. He may become a member of the national assembly but maybe not this time,” Pokhrel told Reporters at Singha Durbar on Wednesday afternoon.
Pokhrel, who is against Gautam’s nomination to the upper house, had reached Nepal’s residence at Koteshwar to meet him, said the sources. It may be recalled that Pokhrel had also held a one-on-one with Nepal amid a souring of relations after the NCP general convention in 2016.
However, NCP General Secretary Bishnu Paudel said that there was a unanimous decision at the secretariat meeting to pick Gautam for the upper house seat. Gautam was defeated in the 2017 parliamentary poll from his home district of Bardiya by Nepali Congress candidate Sanjay Gautam.
Nepal, party executive chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and other dissident leaders in the party were lobbying for Gautam. However, Gautam himself was reluctant to take up that post unless there was an amendment to the constitution to allow an NA member to become prime minister. An attempt by the dissident faction to push for a constitutional amendment was foiled by a public outcry and a rift within the party.
The two-year term of Minister Khatiwada as upper house member is expiring on March 3. He was appointed to the upper house by the president upon the recommendation of the Oli government. Dissident NCP leaders are against nomination of Khatiwada again. They accuse him of ignoring the party leaders and failing to present an upbeat annual budget.