The crucial talks between embattled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and the ruling Nepal Communist Party’s executive chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ on the issue of power-sharing failed on Sunday, but they agreed to meet again on Monday to sort out their differences ahead of the party’s powerful Standing Committee meeting.
The Prachanda faction, backed by senior leaders including Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal, has been demanding Prime Minister Oli’s resignation.
The two leaders failed to reach any agreement as both stuck to their respective stands, said a source close to Prime Minister Oli.
However, they have agreed to meet again for dialogue on Monday ahead of the scheduled Standing Committee meeting to sort out their differences, a senior minister told PTI.
“The two leaders discussed a wide range of issues but no common ground was reached,” he said.
The twice postponed powerful Standing Committee meeting of the party on Monday is expected to decide on the political future of the 68-year-old prime minister.
On Saturday, a crucial meeting of the 45-member Standing Committee was postponed until Monday to allow more time for the top leadership to iron out their differences over Oli’s style of functioning and anti-India statements.
Meanwhile, Oli has met with the opposition Nepali Congress chief Sher Bahadur Deuba. Although it is not clear what issues were discussed during their meeting, there is speculation that Oli might have sought Deuba’s backing to save his government in case the ruling party splits.
On Saturday, Oli said that the ruling communist party is facing a grave crisis, indicating that it may split soon.
Speaking at an emergency meeting of the Cabinet, Oli told the ministers that “some of our party members are also trying to remove President Bidya Devi Bhandari from the power,” My Republica quoted a senior leader as saying.
“Now, conspiracies are being hatched to remove me from the post of prime minister and party chairman,” Oli said, adding that he will not let it happen.
At least three ministers contested Oli’s statements about the conspiracy to impeach the President.
“Ministers including Barshaman Pun, Ghanashyam Bhusal and Parbat Gurung had urged the prime minister that the two party chairs, who are responsible for the party unity, should find a way to resolve the ongoing conflict,” said a state minister.
“Bhusal urged the prime minister not to get swayed by unverified information. Pun said that the prime minister should not reach an early conclusion on such matters.”
After Oli’s remarks, three former prime ministers — ‘Prachanda’, Madhav Nepal and Jhanalanth Khanal — met Bhandari and clarified that the rumour about the NCP leaders trying to remove her from office were untrue.
“The President is an institution. Let’s not drag the institution into controversy for our self-interest. Let’s not spread rumours about impeaching the President,” NCP spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha wrote on Twitter.
During the Cabinet meeting, a defiant Oli said that he will not be forced to accept the party’s Standing Committee decision. He urged the ministers to make their position clear whether they support him or not.
“I had to make a quick decision to prorogue the budget session of Parliament last week after coming to know that some of our party members were hatching conspiracy to register an impeachment motion against the President at Parliament,” Oli told the ministers.
Prior to the Cabinet meeting, Oli held a one-on-one meeting with President Bhandari at her office in Maharajgunj.
The intra-party rift in the NCP is at its peak after majority of the party’s Standing Committee members and Central Secretariat members demanded Oli’s immediate resignation from the post of Prime Minister and party chairman, accusing the government of failing to live up to the people’s expectations.
Oli has accused Prachanda of non-cooperation in running the government while he is accusing the prime minister of imposing hegemony in the party.
Prime Minister Oli last week claimed that there have been various kinds of activities in the “embassies and hotels” to remove him from power.
He said some Nepalese leaders were also involved in the plot after his government redrew the country’s political map by incorporating three strategically key Indian territories — Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura.
Raising baseless accusations against India and leaders of his own party by the Prime Minister was not appropriate, a senior leader of the party quoted Prachanda as saying during the Standing Committee meeting last week.
Prachanda has time and again spoken about the lack of coordination between the government and the party and he was pressing for a one-man one position system to be followed by the NCP.
In May 2018, when Oli and Dahal announced formation of the Nepal Communist Party, they had reached a gentleman’s agreement to lead the government in turn, two-and-a-half years each.
But according to the November 2019 agreement, Oli would lead the government for the full five-year term and Dahal would run the party as “executive chairman”.
Dahal has maintained that Oli failed to uphold the spirit of the November 2019 agreement, hence he should abide by the May 2018 gentleman’s agreement, making way for him to lead the government.