After being accused of playing handmaiden to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's gameplan on several occasions, the president today came under fire for dabbling in partisan politics by actively trying to reconcile differences between the rival factions of the CPN-UML.

Following her telephonic conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on May 26, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari has been actively involved in trying to effect a compromise between the UML Chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and leaders of the disgruntled faction of the party led by Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal.

It is learnt that the president held a long conversation with Oli after talking to Xi on May 26 itself, resulting in second rung leaders from both Oli and Nepal-Khanal factions holding multiple rounds of consultations this week in an attempt to iron out their differences and keeping the party unity intact.

However, not only are her actions unlikely to achieve the desired goal as the Nepal-Khanal faction views her to be a supporter of Oli's political moves, she has come under fire for exceeding her constitutional brief.

Political analyst Puranjan Acharya said the president should play the role of a guardian as envisaged by the constitution, but she appeared to be managing the internal affairs of the ruling party.

Former diplomat Dinesh Bhattarai said the president, whose role has been defined by the constitution as a guardian and symbol of unity, should remain neutral in political matters.

Meanwhile, the Oli faction that was expected to take disciplinary action against some leaders of the Nepal-Khanal faction postponed its standing committee repeatedly this week, including today. The central committee members of the Nepal-Khanal faction, however, met online today.

According to Jeevan Ram Shrestha, a leader of the Nepal-Khanal faction, out of 86 UML Central Committee members close to Nepal and Khanal, 62 spoke in today's consultation meeting. Most of them said the faction should take a call soon without endlessly waiting for the establishment faction's overtures.

The Nepal-Khanal faction is of the view that party unity can be saved only if Oli revives all party committees and structures that existed before the UML's merger with the CPN-MC.

Nepal-Khanal leaders said that PM Oli was offering unity talks just to buy time and strengthen his rule. They said there was no sincerity in his offer.

According to Shrestha, most leaders of the Nepal-Khanal faction said Oli was not positive about reviving the party committees and structures that existed before the UML's merger with the CPN-MC. Shrestha said the talks team formed recently by the two sides was defunct now as Oli had expelled some members of the talks team from the party. He said official talks would take place only if Oli withdrew his decision to recommend dissolution of the HoR and revoked disciplinary action against the Nepal-Khanal faction leaders.

A version of this article appears in the print on June 4, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.