Co-chairperson of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli received a letter yesterday seeking consent to host a party secretariat meeting so as to discuss the COVID-19 crisis and implementation of the party’s Standing Committee decisions.

The letter was sent to the prime minister by the party’s other co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and four members of the party Secretariat Jhalanath Khanal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Bamdev Gautam and Narayan Kaji Shrestha.

The five members of the NCP Secretariat took the unusual step of making a written demand for the party Secretariat meeting after Oli refused to call any meeting of the party’s bodies and also warned Dahal not to officially call the Secretariat meeting without his consent or else he would take it as an attempt to break the party.

The PM has fallen into minority in all key bodies of the party — Secretariat, Standing Committee and Central Committee and hence is said to be avoiding any formal meetings.

The ruling party’s Standing Committee, after a tumultuous intra-party rift, had recently allowed the PM a free hand in the government’s day-to-day affairs but he would have to consult the party and abide by its decisions on policy issues, including appointment in constitutional bodies and nominations of ambassadors.

However, the Dahal-led faction has accused Oli of acting unilaterally and ignoring the party body’s decisions.

NCP Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha told media they had submitted the letter to the PM seeking consent for calling the party Secretariat meeting to discuss the crisis in the party, non-compliance with the party’s decisions and ways to protect party unity.

Shrestha said as Oli had turned deaf ear to Dahal’s request to call the meeting of the party’s bodies, the majority members of the Secretariat submitted the letter to the PM urging him to call the party Secretariat meeting.

“The PM did not answer our request. We hope he will call the Secretariat meeting tomorrow or the day after to discuss these issues,” Shrestha said.

A standing Committee member close to Dahal said if Oli did not call the party Secretariat meeting, Dahal and the other four members of the Secretariat who had gone to meet the PM yesterday, would officially call the meeting to discuss current issues.

“The party and the country cannot be held hostage by Oli,” he added.

Bamdev Gautam, who had played a crucial role in helping Oli avert the challenge posed by the rival faction, told the PM that he was not in Oli’s camp.

Amid the widening rift between Dahal and Oli, Gautam had floated a six-point proposal saying the PM should not be removed from any of the two posts — PM or party co-chair.

After Gautam’s move, Dahal and Nepal, who had mounted pressure on the PM to quit either of the posts had backed off.

A Standing Committee member close to Oli said the PM would call the Secretariat meeting when he deemed it necessary.