The government today brought a new ordinance to amend the Political Party Act, lowering the threshold for splitting the parties, prompting rival factions of the CPN-UML to make moves against each other.

The establishment faction of the UML led by party Chair KP Sharma Oli today removed 14 lawmakers belonging to the Madhav Kumar Nepal-Jhalanath Khanal faction from the party and wrote to the Parliament Secretariat seeking their expulsion from the House. The establishment faction also sent a copy of its letter to the Election Commission.

Lawmakers who were expelled from the party are Madhav Kumar Nepal, Birodh Khatiwada, Met Mani Chaudhary. Jeevan Ram Shrestha, Mukunda Neupane, Ram Kumari Jhakri, Kalyani Khadka, Laxmi Kumari Chaudhary, Nira Devi Jairu, Pushpa Kumari Karna, Sarala Yadav, Kalila Khatun, Krishna Lal Maharjan, and Bhawani Khapung.

According to an Oli faction lawmaker and former attorney general Agni Prasad Kharel, the party removed 14 lawmakers from the HoR and party positions for defying party whips on May 10 when Oli, as prime minister, had sought vote of confidence in the HoR. He said the party had sought clarification from the 14 lawmakers for not showing up in the HoR during the vote of confidence on May 10. He said since the party found that their response was not satisfactory, it decided to expel them from the HoR and the party's central committee as per the Political Party Act.

The Oli faction also sent the updated list of 260 central committee members to the EC, requesting it to update the party's document there, according to EC Spokesperson Raj Kumar Shrestha. He said the commission would now take a call on the UML's request. "The EC will have to take a call as per the relevant laws and UML's documents. The EC can update the UML's central committee, ask for more documents from the party, or reject the establishment faction's request," he added.

The Nepal-Khanal faction, meanwhile, held its central committee meeting in the wake of expulsion of 14 of its lawmakers from the UML and the new ordinance.

Nepal-Khanal faction leader Birodh Khatiwada said the Oli faction's actions post March 12, including the decision to expel 14 lawmakers and to add members to the central committee, were illegal. "The Oli faction's latest move made it clear to everybody who thought there was a slim chance of party unity that Oli was not in favour of unity," Birodh Khatiwada added. He said there were only 203 members in the UML Central Committee before its merger with the CPN-MC.

The Nepal-Khanal faction leaders said the party unity could be maintained only if Oli agreed to give equal status to Nepal and do everything with his and Nepal's signatures.

Another leader of the faction, Jagannath Khatiwada, told mediapersons after the meeting that they had sent members of the dissolved taskforce to Oli's residence with their message and if Oli did not agree to their conditions, they would open a new party. Khatiwada said the unity deal should be respectable for both the factions and should guarantee co-existence. "We cannot agree to a deal that will make Oli autocratic and arbitrary," Khatiwada said.

A version of this article appears in the print on August 18 2021, of The Himalayan Times.