Oli, Dahal may bury the hatchet soon

Kathmandu, January 16

In what the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leaders are calling the beginning of the end of the stalemate over candidates for the speaker’s election, NCP co-chairs Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal held a meeting in Baluwatar today.

The two leaders had not met since Sunday when they requested House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe to resign to pave the way for speaker election. NCP central secretariat had decided on Saturday that Tumbahangphe should resign. The HoR speaker’s post has remained vacant since the arrest of Krishna Bahadur Mahara on the attempt to rape charge in October.

According to party insiders, distrust between the top two NCP leaders had ensued after Dahal held a meeting with fellow secretariat members Jhalanath Khanal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Bam Dev Gautam and Narayan Kaji Shrestha at Gautam’s Bhaisepati residence last week.

Miffed at Dahal, Oli disapproved of Saturday’s secretariat decision and secretly backed Tumbahangphe’s stand that she would resign only after the party decided on the new speaker, say insiders.

Against this backdrop, NCP standing committee member Devendra Paudel said today’s meeting ended positively as both the leaders agreed that rendering the HoR ineffective for long would not be ideal and that the present stalemate should end at the earliest. “This meeting was held after a long time. The HoR deadlock will end soon,” Paudel told THT.

Sources, however, said the two leaders did not discuss candidate for speaker in today’s meeting.

Because of the NCP’s indecision on nominating a candidate for speaker, the HoR meeting has already been postponed thrice since the Bill Session kicked off on December 20.

The next meeting has been slated for January 20. Earlier, the meeting was postponed on December 27 until January 1, on December 31 till January 12, and eventually till January 20. The situation has invited wide criticism and condemnation.

Frustrated over the HoR deadlock, President of main opposition Nepali Congress Sher Bahadur Deuba said his party would nominate a candidate for speaker if the ruling party was not able to do so. The NC also said it would field a candidate for speaker.

The constitutional post has remained vacant since the arrest of former speaker of the House of Representatives Krishna Bahadur Mahara in October. Worsening the deadlock, Oli and Dahal have firmly stuck to their guns. While former speaker Subas Chandra Nembang has been the PM’s favourite to replace Mahara, Dahal is rooting for either Agni Sapkota or Pampha Bhusal. Adding to the impasse, Deputy Speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe has also staked her claim to the speaker’s post and she reportedly has President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s backing.

However, the PM’s Press Adviser Surya Thapa said the stalemate would end before the House meeting slated for January 20. “Today’s meeting was held in a harmonious environment and a range of issues were discussed,” he told THT. “We can expect a positive decision by the next House meeting.”