Nepal PM refuses to heed party calls to step down

Nepalese Prime Minster KP Sharma Oli has once again refused to step down from either post - party chairman or prime minister

Aug 03, 2020

Nepalese Prime Minster KP Sharma Oli has once again refused to step down from either post - party chairman or prime minister.

A week after the other chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal conducted a meeting of the Standing Committee “unilaterally”, he met with Oli on Sunday and reiterated the same demand that the latter should resign as party chair.

Oli said in response, according to leaders familiar with the development, that he won’t.

Insiders said both chairs are testing each other.

According to a Standing Committee member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Oli is now pressing for a Secretariat meeting, as he has managed to turn the table on Dahal in the party committee.

Until a few weeks ago, the Dahal faction, backed by senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal, had the majority in the nine-member Secretariat. But with Oli managing to steal party vice-chair Bamdev Gautam and Ram Bahadur Thapa, the incumbent home minister, deciding to sit on the fence, the balance has been tilted.

Apart from Gautam, Oli now has party General Secretary Bishnu Poudel, Ishwar Pokhrel and Thapa on his side.
The Dahal faction is left with Nepal, Khanal and Narayan Kaji Shrestha.

It, however, holds the majority in the 44-member Standing Committee.

A leader said that Dahal, Nepal and Khanal still want a decision from the Standing Committee on Oli’s resignation. And they want to take the decision to the Central Committee for endorsement.

On July 30, as many as 152 central members demanded that the party call a meeting of the Central Committee.

In the 442-member Central Committee also, the Dahal-Nepal faction holds the majority.

Until a few weeks ago, the Dahal faction was bent on making Oli resign both as a party chair and prime minister. The majority members in the Standing Committee were also for the same.

But Oli suddenly prorogued the House on July 2, signalling that he could even split the party. He then forced Dahal into talking and offered party chairmanship through an “early general convention”. But the caveat that Dahal has to accept People’s Multi-party Democracy as the party’s guiding principle made him cautious.
Since July 2, Oli and Dahal held a series of meetings in a bid to “save” the party unity. The more Dahal held one-on-one meetings with Oli, the more suspicious he made his allies—Nepal and Khanal.

Under pressure from Nepal and Khanal, Dahal then once again ramped up pressure on Oli to step down—this time from the post of party chair.

A leader close to Oli who also did not want to be named given the fluid situation in the party said that after Oli refused to relent, asking Dahal to “do whatever he can”, the latter started scrambling.

Insiders say Dahal now is under pressure to forge an agreement with Oli while not alienating his allies.

Amid the continued deadlock, concerns have started to grow in the party as well if the two chairs are indeed fighting over some serious ideological issues. The Dahal faction has even been accused of picking a fight with Oli over some party positions. Dahal tried to clarify it on Saturday.

“Service to the nation is [our] main agenda and not positions in the party,” he said, addressing the 23rd memorial day of the late communist leader Tulsilal Amatya.

“We are not vying for any position, we are for securing the future of people and the nation; our responsibility is to ensure stability.”
Analysts say the two chairmen are moving in circles, as they have neither proper agenda nor an intent to serve the party and the nation.

“Leaders of the two communist parties decided to unite just for power-sharing and nothing more than that, and if that is not managed properly it can implode any time,” said Shyam Shrestha, a political commentator who has followed Nepals’ leftist politics for decades. “The conflict in the ruling party today is for positions; nobody cares about ideology; the people or the nation.”

Leaders from the Madhav Nepal faction, however, say they are fighting for the party system, rather than positions.

A leader close to Nepal said that the two chairs’ meetings of late don’t send across a good message.

“It looks like they are trying to find a deal between themselves,” said Raghuji Pant, a Standing Committee member. “What we are demanding is abiding by the party committee decisions and party system and procedures.”

When Dahal met with Oli on Sunday, Khanal accompanied him. On Tuesday also, Dahal and Khanal had held a meeting with Oli.

Leaders said Nepal has refused to meet Oli. The last time Nepal accompanied Dahal in a meeting with Oli was on July 16.
At Sunday’s meeting, Oli was accompanied by his close confidante Subas Nembang, the Nepal Communist Party (NCP)’s deputy Parliamentary Party leader.

Nembang told the Post that the meeting between Oli and Dahal on Sunday itself was a positive development.

“When Dahal and the other chair have said there is no alternative to seeking a solution through dialogue and consensus, there is nothing to speculate,” said Nembang. “I’m optimistic that things will be fine in the party.”

Leaders from the Oli faction say the Dahal group is raising unnecessary issues at a time when the government has too many things on its plate.

A Standing Committee member, who is close to Oli, said that Oli has even told the rival faction that he is ready to hand over the party chairmanship.

“But they should wait until the general convention,” the Standing Committee member who did not want to be named told the Post. “It’s up to the Dahal-Nepal faction whether they accept Oli’s proposal.”

Shrestha, the political analyst, said the ruling party should follow democratic rules if it really considers it a democratic party.
“It has become clear by now that both Oli and Dahal are fighting for power,” Shrestha told the Post. “If they want to give a renewed message to the party rank and file and the people that they are really mean to serve the nation and they really believe in democratic values, they should rather let the party’s highest body–the Central Committee–take a call.”