Kathmandu A crucial meeting of Nepal’s ruling communist party to decide the political future of embattled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli was postponed until Monday to allow more time for the top leadership to iron out their differences over his autocratic 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 Saturday at 11 AM local time. But it was postponed at the last minute.
Prime Minister’s press advisor Surya Thapa said the meeting was postponed until Monday as the top leaders of the NCP required more time to forge an understanding on the outstanding issues.
The meeting has been postponed as NCP chairpersons Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda were busy holding internal consultations amid the rift in the party.
“The Standing Committee meeting has been postponed until on Monday as both the chairs needed time for further discussions, said Bishnu Sapkota, the press advisor to Prachanda.
The meeting was supposed to begin at the Prime Minister’s official residence in Baluwatar to find a way out from the intra-party crisis which is dragging the ruling communist party close to a split.
During the meeting, majority of the party leaders were expected to demand Oli’s resignation from the post of Prime Minister accusing his government of failing to live up to the people’s expectations and responding effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many top leaders, including former prime minister Prachanda, have also slammed Oli for his anti-India remarks.
“The Prime Minister’s remarks that India was conspiring to remove him was neither politically correct, nor diplomatically appropriate,” he said on June 30.
Oli, 68, on Sunday claimed that there have been various kinds of activities in the “embassies and hotels” to oust him from power.
He said some Nepalese leaders were also involved in the plot after his government updated the country’s political map by incorporating three strategically key Indian territories – Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura.
The Prachanda faction, backed by senior leaders including Madhav Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal, has been demanding that Oli step down both as party chair and prime minister.
Earlier, the Standing Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday was also postponed.
The three hour-long informal meeting between Oli and Prachanda on Friday to rescue the party from possible split failed to make any headway.
Some NCP leaders doubt that the party can remain united, given the serious intra-party differences during in recent days.
“I don’t think our party will remain intact now,” said Matrika Yadav, a Standing Committee member who is close to Prachanda.
“I don’t think the party will tolerate his (Prime Minister Oli’s) autocratic style of functioning any more,” The Kathmandu Post quoted Yadav as saying this week.
During Friday’s meeting, the two leaders reviewed the overall situation, including party unity and ways to rescue the party from the present crisis, senior leader Ganesh Shah told PTI.
They also discussed the agenda to be put forth for discussion during the upcoming meeting, he said.
During their Friday talks, Prachanda demanded that Oli should step down but the latter refused, saying he was open to discuss any other issue, except for his resignation, The Kathmandu Post reported.
Oli and Prachanda have failed to agree whether to follow the May 16, 2018 agreement or the November 20, 2019 understanding reached between them to share power.
In May 2018, when Oli and Prachanda announced the 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 Prachanda would run the party as executive chairman .
Prachanda 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.
As the meeting failed to break the ice, with both the sides sticking to their stands, Oli and Prachanda briefly met on Saturday morning to iron out their difference, according to party sources.
As the Saturday morning’s meeting also could not bear any fruit, the party’s Standing Committee meeting scheduled to begin at 11 AM was put off until Monday, party sources said.
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.
The differences between the two factions of the NCP — one led by Oli and the other led by Prachanda — intensified after the prime minister unilaterally decided to prorogue the budget session of Parliament on Thursday.
According to political analysts, the ruling party may split if Oli did not compromise with the dissident faction led by Prachanda.
Monday’s Standing Committee meeting will decide whether the party will split or not, and whether Oli gives up one of the two positions. Currently Oli is the prime minister as well as the co-chair of the NCP.
Oli has been cornered in the party as the majority of the senior leaders are with Prachanda. Oli has the support of only 15 members in the 45-member Standing Committee.
The NCP has 174 seats in the 275-member House of Representatives, the lower house.