Nepal's 3 former premiers boycott President's all-party meeting amid political crisis

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Kathmandu, Mar 16 (PTI) Nepal's three former prime ministers on Tuesday boycotted an all-party meeting called by President Bidya Devi Bhandari to discuss contemporary issues amid the political crisis that has gripped the country.

Former premiers Baburam Bhattarai, Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal skipped the meeting called by President Bhandari at Shital Niwas, questioning her role in the row of the erstwhile Nepal Communist Party (NCP), My Republica newspaper reported.

While both Khanal and Nepal belong to the rival faction of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (UML), Bhattarai heads the federal council of the Janata Samajbadi Party.

They have publicly alleged that President Bhandari had failed to act as a custodian of the Constitution, supporting even unconstitutional moves taken by Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli who had dissolved the House of Representatives in December.

Tuesday’s meeting was attended by Prime Minister Oli, CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, Chairman of Janata Samajbadi Party Mahanta Thakur, and former Chairman of Council of Minister Khil Raj Regmi.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the CPN (Maoist Center) parliamentary party picked Prachanda as its leader, said Devendra Poudel, a lawmaker belonging to the party. Oli was the parliamentary party leader when the NCP existed.

Dev Prasad Gurung has been named the CPN (Maoist Center) party's chief whip while Dinanath Sharma is the new leader of the party in the National Assembly, the upper house of the bicameral federal parliament. However, the party's parliamentary party has yet to designate the party's deputy parliamentary party leader and whip, the paper said.

The all-party meeting by the President came at a time when the CPN (UML) too appears to be headed for a split.

The CPN (UML) faction led by Madhav Nepal on Tuesday accused party Chairman and Prime Minister Oli of trying to divide the party.

Yogesh Bhattarai, a senior leader of the Nepal-led faction, said that Chairperson Oli is promoting factional feud in the name of holding party meetings, rejecting to abide by the verdict of Supreme Court and making attempts to split the party, the paper reported.

Talking to reporters ahead of the Nepal-led faction's national gathering scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, Bhattarai said the party should uphold the verdict of the apex court which quashed the unification between the CPN (UML) and CPN (Maoist Center).

'The factional gathering organised by the Oli-led faction on March 12 has further deepened discomfort, distrust and suspicion in the party, taking the party toward a split,' Bhattarai said.

He objected to the 'unilateral decisions' taken by the party's central committee meeting on March 12 and demanded that they must be scrapped.

On March 12, the central committee meeting dominated by the Oli-led faction nominated 23 new members to the party’s Central Committee (CC). It also nominated 23 former Maoist leaders who joined the UML as CC members.

Prime Minister Oli's move to dissolve the House of Representatives led to the Prachanda-led CPN (Maoist Center) to split from the ruling NCP.

In a landmark ruling, the apex court last month reinstated the lower house of Parliament.

According to a report in The Himalayan Times, a meeting between the leader of the two CPN-UML factions on Monday ended in a stalemate with Nepal and Khanal demanding Oli to take back his March 12 decisions that divested leaders close to the duo of key responsibilities in the party.

The Nepal-led faction wrote a letter to the Election Commission on Sunday, urging it not to implement the decisions taken by the establishment faction led by Oli.

They have argued that the amendment made to the party's statute by the Oli-faction was illegal, stating that as per the party's statute, its provisions could be amended only by the party's General Convention or Statute Amendment Council. PTI ZH/RS AKJ ZH ZH