Prime Minister (PM) KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal reached the Shital Niwas Wednesday morning to meet President Bidya Devi Bhandari ahead of division of responsibilities between the two CPN chairmen and Cabinet reshuffle.
This would have been normal if Bhandari were an executive president playing active role in both the government and party. But she is a constitutional president and the statute envisions her as a national guardian and head of state above party politics and operation of government.
But Oli and Dahal has pulled President Bhandari across the redline by using her to resolve dispute between them and making her a witness to their agreement.
The then CPN-UML chairman Oli and CPN (Maoist Center) chairman Dahal had agreed to take turn as PM at the time of party unification but Oli had been running both the party and government single-handedly.
The latest agreement reached before Oli went to Singapore with Bam Dev Gautam the witness was also not honored. Dahal was skeptic about implementation of even the impending agreement.
A CPN leader confided that President Bhandari may have been kept witness as guarantor of the agreement that was announced in the secretariat meeting held immediately after Oli and Dahal returned from Shital Niwas.
Dahal has been made chairman with executive rights. Oli and Dahal will remain chairmen, and Oli will continue to be ranked top but Oli has handed over the executive rights to Dahal.
Dahal will now lead the party and chair party meetings while Oli will lead the government through the current term of House of Representatives.
President Bhandari in this way has helped resolution of the longstanding dispute between the two chairmen, and remained witness to guarantee this agreement will be honored.
This has once again brought President Bhandari's influence inside CPN to the fore. She has long been playing a decisive role in the party's politics and power balance between different individuals and groups inside the party.
Her role in making Dor Mani Paudel the chief minister (CM) of Province 3 and Sher Dhan Rai that of Province 1 is well-known inside the party.
Bhandari and Oli were in the same faction in the then UML before she became president. Bhandari, who was elected party vice-chairman after the ninth general convention, would protect cadres and leaders in her faction. She would cajole those rubbed the wrong way by abrasive Oli.
She has been handing out scholarships at Madan Bhandari College and even abroad to children of cadres from the faction.
She had played a big role even in Oli's victory in the election for chairman in the ninth general convention.
CPN leaders claim PM Oli does not cross suggestions given by President Bhandari. "One used to come to me saying he be appointed at the National Planning Commission (NPC)," a minister told Setopati. "I advised him to go to the mother (president) and tell." The person later went to the Shital Niwas and joined the NPC.
She has been a pillar of strength supporting PM Oli at troubled times recently.
She played a decisive role to save Oli when Dahal, miffed at lack of implementation of the agreement to take turn as PM, and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal had allied to dislodge him during his last visit to India.
Oli seemed to be in minority even inside the nine-strong secretariat with Defense Minister Ishwore Pokharel angered at having been bypassed for the post of general secretary while Gautam was also dissatisfied at being denied any role.
A CPN leader claims that she talked with Pokharel and boosted his ties with Oli. "She advised PM Oli to trust Pokharel saying that general secretary Bishnu Paudel is lacking (in competence)," the leader adds.
Leaders swear that she also brought Gautam back from the Dahal-Nepal camp, and add that she played a role in getting Yogesh Bhattarai to lead the Tourism Ministry that remained vacant for a long time.
A leader claims that she has recently improved relation of Surendra Pandey, who was candidate for general secretary from the Nepal faction in the ninth general convention, with Oli, and Pandey has a strong chance of becoming minister after the Cabinet reshuffle.
She has ultimately played a role in resolving the longstanding dispute between Oli and Dahal.
She has compromised the sanctity of the post of president and role of the head of state envisioned by the Constitution while playing such roles inside the ruling party.
"This may invite criticism of both CPN and the president in the coming days," a CPN leader opines.