A crucial meeting of Nepal’s ruling communist party to decide the political future of embattled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli was on Wednesday postponed once again for Friday, amidst intra-party rifts and calls for his resignation over his style of functioning and anti-India statements.
The meeting of the Nepal Communist Party’s 45-member powerful Standing Committee was scheduled to be held on Wednesday.
Prime Minister’s press advisor Surya Thapa announced that the meeting was postponed until Friday. The reason for the deferment for a fourth time was not revealed.
The political future of 68-year-old Oli is expected to be decided on Friday during the Standing Committee meeting, amidst the growing involvement of Hou Yanqui, the Chinese ambassador to Nepal, to save his chair.
With the latest deferment, the crucial Standing Committee meeting of the NCP has been put off for the fourth time in an apparent bid to provide enough time for the two chairmen of the party — Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ — to reach consensus amidst the heightened intra-party rifts.
The differences between the two factions of the NCP — one led by Oli and the other led by ‘Prachanda’ on the issue of power-sharing — has recently intensified after the prime minister unilaterally decided to prorogue the budget session of Parliament.
The Prachanda faction, backed by senior leaders and former prime ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal, has been demanding Oli’s resignation, saying his recent anti-India remarks were “neither politically correct nor diplomatically appropriate.”
According to the My Republica newspaper, Oli and Prachanda have held a series of talks to iron out their differences.
Oli is under intense pressure to step down from the posts of Prime Minister and party chairperson as a majority of the NCP leaders have asked him to do so owing to the government’s lackluster response to the COVID-19 pandemic and his unilateral actions, bypassing the party.
The two leaders held talks for two hours on Friday last week. They also held an hour-long meeting on Sunday and a one-on-one meeting on Monday in an attempt to minimise their differences. According to sources, their meeting had ended on a ‘positive note’.
On Sunday, China’s ambassador Hou met with the senior leader of the NCP and former prime minister Madhav Nepal at his residence in Koteshwor and they discussed the current situation.
The Chinese envoy had also called on President Bidya Devi Bhandari.
Hou on Tuesday met senior leaders and former prime ministers Madhav Nepal and Khanal as hectic negotiations for a power-sharing deal were going on between Oli and the dissident group led by Prachanda.
This was not the first time that the Chinese ambassador intervened in Nepal’s internal affairs at a time of crisis.
One-and-a-half months ago, when the NCP’s intra-party feud reached the climax, Hou held separate meetings with President Bhandari, Prime Minister Oli and other senior leaders including Prachanda and Madhav Nepal.
The differences in the ruling party have reached its peak, with both the sides sticking to their respective stands.
The Prachanda-led faction has asked Oli to resign from both the posts of the Prime Minister as well as the party chairman, while Oli is not ready to quit any of the two key posts.
With Oli being cornered within the party, he met main Opposition Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba on Sunday in a bid to seek his backing to save his government in case the party splits.
There has been a demand from the party’s senior leaders and cadres to adhere to the principle of one-man one post in the party since the unification process between CPN-UML and Maoist Centre started two years ago, said Ganesh Shah, the Standing Committee member.
If Oli sacrifices one of the two executive posts, a solution to the present crisis could be found, he said.
There is a need to operate the party in adherence to the statute, and meetings of the Central Secretariat, Standing Committee and Central Committee should be held on a regular basis to run the party smoothly and not to allow any misunderstanding, he said.
There has been turmoil in the NCP for the past few months, but Oli tried to divert the attention of the dissident group by giving a nationalist slogan and updating the Nepal’s political map by incorporating three strategically key Indian territories – Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura — which served as means to pacify the internal tussle for some time.
However, the turmoil again surfaced since last week, after Oli accused the dissident groups led by Prachanda of hatching a conspiracy to remove him with the help of the southern neighbour.