Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli appeared to have bought some time, sealing the locality that is home to his prime rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ after six guards on his security detail tested positive to the coronavirus disease.
The precautionary measure helps PM Oli avoid any meeting with Prachanda who has lately, amped up his attacks on the prime minister and this week told party workers to prepare for the worst. It was a message that Dahal had conveyed to PM Oli’s emissary, the Nepal Communist Party’s deputy leader in parliament Subas Nembang, also on Thursday.
That is before authorities sealed off parts of Khumaltar, the neighbourhood outside the capital city that Dahal shifted to in 2017 when he couldn’t find a house in Kathmandu with enough parking space for his security entourage. Six security guards deployed to protect Dahal had tested positive. In a Facebook post, Dahal’s daughter Ganga, who assists her father, said everyone else in the family and the secretariat had tested negative. The order to seal off the area around the Dahal residence came soon.
Kathmandu watchers say the Covid order issued by the Oli government offers a reprieve to the prime minister who has been at his wits’ end trying to bunk party meetings. Last month-end, the NCP’s standing committee had gone ahead to hold its meeting without PM Oli after the prime minister postponed it once again.
Dahal, who had been negotiating a way out to end the deadlock with PM Oli, last month reversed his stand after reports that the Oli camp may have quietly registered his old party – CPN-UML – with the Himalayan nation’s election commission. The ruling Nepal Communist Party was formed in 2018 with the merger of PM Oli’s CPN (Unified Marxist–Leninist) and the Dahal faction’s CPN (Maoist Centre).
The Dahal faction suspects that PM Oli was preparing to break up the NCP at a time of his choosing. That the wily Oli had no plans to strike a compromise with detractors who want him to give one of his two positions – PM or the NCP’ co-chairman – became clear this week when during a visit home, he declared that “there was no question of resigning in the middle of the journey”.
Dahal responded the next day, Wednesday, with a long statement to a select group of journalists, asking party cadres to prepare for the “worst”. At the briefing that he addressed jointly with three senior party leaders Madhav Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal and party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Dahal said: “Our main concern is not about gaining power, what we want is to follow the proper procedure while running the NCP. We are not focusing on gaining any position, but our fight is against the wrong trend developing in the party”.