CPN Chairmen KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal provided ample glimpse of their differences during opening remarks in the standing committee meeting that started at Baluwatar Wednesday.
Prime Minister (PM) Oli claimed that the works of his government were effective and urged the standing committee members to ignore the allegations of irregularities in procurement of medical supplies and other criticisms.
"Let's not listen to others. The businessmen who do not get contracts spread different rumors," a standing committee member quoted Oli as saying. "There will be action if anybody has committed mistakes but criticizing one another inside the party in this manner does not send the right message."
He pointed that such vehement criticisms should not be made as the same party will have to contest the election in a couple of years. "How can we go to the election with this happening in the party. We are ready to mend ways if there are any mistakes," he assured.
Fellow chairman Dahal, meanwhile, stressed on the need for serious review in the party complaining that past agreements have not been implemented. "I reevaluated the agreement made before party unification to ensure that the government works are effective," the standing committee member quoted Dahal as saying. "But even the agreement after reevaluation has not been honored. Do raise questions about this, friends. Let us do serious review of that in the meeting and reach conclusion."
Dahal warned that the party will suffer a huge setback if such a big current mandate were not protected.
The meeting was adjourned until 11 Friday morning after address by the two chairmen and passing the meeting's agenda.
Standing committee unlikely to decide the last man standing in intra-party dispute
Dispute between Prime Minister (PM) and CPN Chairman KP Sharma Oli and fellow Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has escalated in recent days.
The situation has worsen to such an extent that they failed to decide the agenda for standing committee meeting starting Wednesday despite meeting for hours in the past few days. They couldn't even convene the secretariat meeting to decide on the agenda for standing committee meeting despite meeting thrice in the past week including the one for over three hours on Tuesday.
The two chairmen mainly differ on the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), and operation of the government and the party.
"The whole world knows about differences between them," a standing committee member confided with Setopati. "But that dispute has now transformed into clash of a personalities and bitterness."
The two chairmen have their own explanations for escalation of the dispute.
The chairmen had signed an agreement on division of responsibilities in presence of President Bidya Devi Bhandari on November 20, 2019.
Dahal was made chairman with executive rights. Oli and Dahal were to remain chairmen, and Oli to continue to be ranked top but Oli had handed over the executive rights to Dahal.
Dahal was to lead the party and chair party meetings while Oli would lead the government through the current term of House of Representatives, according to the agreement.
Oli accuses Dahal of not supporting the government well, not publicly defending the government, and encircling him by holding factional meetings even after that agreement.
Dahal, on the other hand, points that he has not been allowed to function as executive chairman even after the agreement, and accuses Oli of dishonoring the agreement by going to the media and bragging that he remains the top-ranked chairman and will run the party, and later operating party meetings solely.
"Chairman Dahal deems that Oli has grown more arrogant after he sacrificed and agreed to allow Oli to head the government for the full term, and Oli has started to humiliate him," a leader close to Dahal confided with Setopati. "That agreement was expected to boost mutual trust between the chairmen but has started a new series of lack of trust instead."
Dahal and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal have allied against Oli in the latest intra-party struggle for power. Vice-chairman Bam Dev Gautam, who has vacillated between camps, has recently joined the Dahal-Nepal camp to put Oli in minority even in the nine-strong secretariat.
Dahal had advised Oli to resign from both the posts of PM and chairman and rest at Balkot during the secretariat meeting on April 29 as the power struggle reached a boiling point.
Oli had tactically proposed to make Gautam PM to break the Dahal-Nepal alliance and succeeded in that to earn majority in the secretariat. Dahal and Nepal stepped back after that and the dispute had cooled down.
But Gautam has seen through Oli's ploy since then and returned back to the anti-Oli camp. The issue of MCC and accusation of the government's failure in handling COVID-19 pandemic have been added to the then list of differences.
PM Oli wants to pass the MCC from the House while Dahal is adamant that it should not be passed without changes. Dahal has the support of Nepal and another senior leader Jhala Nath Khanal.
The Dahal-Nepal camp has planned to make MCC the main agenda in the meeting that started Wednesday afternoon. The camp will also raise the issue of party not running in accordance to the party statute and the government's failure in handling COVID-19 pandemic.
"The standing committee meeting will discuss about passing the MCC with changes. Decision will likely be taken in accordance to the report submitted by the party's task force," a leader close to Dahal said.
The task force led by Khanal had recommended that the MCC should not be passed as it is and should be passed only after some changes.
A leader close to Oli, however, pointed that the previous standing committee meeting had delegated the issue of MCC to the secretariat and the issue had even been discussed in the central committee meeting, and opined that MCC may not be an important issue in the meeting.
The leader added that Oli will try to forge support for the MCC but will not push it through even if the differences remain . "He will not move the MCC forward on majority as some party leaders were involved in bringing the MCC to Nepal."
There have been speculations that the standing committee will pass a proposal against Oli or even instruct him to resign as PM, but leaders of both the factions agree that the meeting is not likely to take any decision against the PM or government. "All the issues will be discussed and there may be differences and fierce debates. But any proposal may not be passed against the PM," a leader close to Nepal said.
A leader close to Dahal said how Oli will present himself will set the tone for the meeting. "Standing committee is a powerful party organ. It is not that it cannot pass any proposal or instruct the government," the leader pointed. "But how the meeting proceeds will decide many things."