The establishment faction of the CPN-UML led by party Chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli held a standing committee meeting today and decided to lift the suspension of four leaders of the party's rival faction, namely, senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, Surendra Prasad Pandey, Bhim Bahadur Rawal, and Ghanashyam Bhusal.

PM Oli's move came hours before the deadline set by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari for staking claim for the next premiership expired.

On Monday the president had asked the parties to form the next coalition government as per Article 76 (2) of the constitution after PM Oli lost the floor test.

Earlier, PM Oli had suspended Nepal, Bhusal, Rawal, Pandey, and some other leaders of the Nepal faction for six months for engaging in anti-party activities.

Media outlets reported that the Nepal faction was preparing to resign en masse to facilitate formation of a coalition government comprising the Nepali Congress and CPN-Maoist Centre. The NC and the CPN-MC had failed to secure the support of the Mahantha Thakur-Rajendra Mahato faction of the Janata Samjbadi Party-Nepal. Unless the Thakur-Mahato faction supported the NC and CPN-MC, it would be impossible to form the next coalition government.

Informing mediapersons about the Standing Committee's decisions, UML Spokesperson Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said that although the rival faction, which had removed PM Oli from general membership of the party in the past, was still trying to dump the party's government to enable opposition parties to form the next government, the party's Standing Committee took a liberal approach vis-a-vis rival faction leaders and lifted the suspension against them for the sake of party unity.

Asked to comment on the rival faction's demands to revive the party structures and committees that existed before the CPN-UML's merger with CPN-Maoist Centre, Gyawali said his faction was ready to discuss the issue, but the contribution of former UML leaders who were loyal to the party chair during difficult times, should not be discounted. PM Oli had inducted 23 former Maoist leaders into the Central Committee, which the rival faction said lacked legal validity. When asked about the rumour that lawmakers from the Nepal-Khanal faction could resign en masse from the House of Representatives to make it easy for opposition parties to form the next coalition government, Gyawali said that the parties and not any individual lawmaker, had a crucial role to play as per Article 76 (2) of the constitution.

Gyawali said the meeting entrusted PM Oli with the power to take decision regarding the Nepal faction's demand for reviving the party structures that existed before the UML's merger with the CPN-MC.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 14, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.