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China bid to foil split in Nepal communist party

China is working hard to foil a split in the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which is facing a standoff over the issue of resignation of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli.

Sources said China has been supporting Oli and does not want a situation wherein the party gets split. Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Hou Yanqi has been holding meetings with the NCP leaders, including Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal, who are supporting Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, a former PM, in an attempt to avoid any such situation. She also met President Bidhya Devi Bhandari in this regard, a source said.

Multiple sources in Nepal said Opposition party leaders are not happy with the Chinese envoy’s series of meetings with the ruling party leaders, which they have termed as interference in Nepal’s internal political affairs. They said that China is making every attempt to ensure that the communist party is not split, be it at the cost of Oli’s chair.

According to a Kathmandu-based journalist, Oli is in a minority in the standing committee of the NCP. “Out of 44 members, only 14 are in favour of Oli, while the rest are loyal to Prachanda. There is no ideological difference between the two as such, but the Prachanda faction is unhappy with Oli as he feels he has been sidelined,” he said.

According to him, the political situation in Nepal is “not good” but a split does not appear to be a possibility in the near future. He said: “There is pressure by second rung leaders of the party on both Oli and Prachanda to minimize their differences so that a mutual understanding could be thrashed out. Nobody within the party wants a split as this will lead to many complications and the NCP will never be able to get overwhelming majority.”

Prachanda, Madhav Nepal, Khanal and former deputy Prime Minister Bamdev Gautam are all seeking a bigger role in the party, and by extension, the government.

A meeting of the NCP’s standing committee was scheduled to meet on Wednesday, but it was deferred at the last minute “as the country is facing natural calamities”. Sources said this has diminished the chances of reconciliation between Oli and his rival faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), a former PM, who wants Oli to resign, saying his continuation is not good for the interests of Nepal.

Oli and Prachanda are co-chairs of the NCP. The two had a meeting on Tuesday, but it remained inconclusive and Oli refused to resign from his party post as well as the PM office. However, the two leaders decided that a meeting of the standing committee would be held on Wednesday. However, this meeting was deferred at the last moment.

Sources said thatthough Oli is in minority, he is determined to hold on to power. He has threatened that he may split the party if he is pressurized to resign. Oli and Prachanda have held over half dozen meetings, but of no avail. The Nepal Communist Party was formed in 2018 by unifying Nepal’s two leftist parties- Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre).

The Prachanda faction has been demanding Oli’s resignation since his recent anti-India remarks were “neither politically correct nor diplomatically appropriate.” The rift can be attributed to the Prime Minister’s unilateral decision to prorogue the budget session of Parliament, the government’s underwhelming response to the Covid-19 pandemic and his unilateral actions (bypassing the party).

Despite an agreement with Prachanda not todirect any street protests, there were sporadic demonstrations across the country in support of Oli. In Kathmandu alone, at least seven sporadic demonstrations took place this week, followed by others in different parts of Nepal, including Saptari where the Oli rally was confronted by a Dahal rally. According to local media reports, this indicates that the dialogue between the two rival party leaders has failed.

There has been turmoil in the party for the last few months. Oli tried to divert the attention of the dissident groups by updating Nepal’s political map by incorporating three Indian territories—Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura. This pacified the political temperature to some extent. However, the turmoil started again after Oli accused the dissident groups led by Prachanda of hatching a conspiracy to remove him with the help of the southern neighbour.

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