Now that Nepal and Oli are in their own UML party again, they carried their animosity there, with both forming parallel committees, and taking the split down to the district level.
To be sure, Nepal and Oli have never seen eye to eye with each other. Things got worse after the UML’s 2015 general convention, where Oli became Chair of the UML and then of the NCP after it united with the Maoists.
After Oli dissolved the Lower House on 20 December, Nepal and Dahal solidified their alliance further to stage street demonstrations, while Oli staged his own series of street rallies.
But after the Supreme Court ruling reinstating the Lower House, another court decision on 7 March reverted the NCP to its two constituent parties: UML and Maoist Centre, complicating the power struggle between Oli vs Dahal-Nepal.
Over the weekend, Oli held a meeting of the Central Committee with members loyal to him, and Nepal, too, started to rally his supporters in the Standing and Central Committees.
The Oli faction stripped Nepal’s supporters of all previous responsibilities, and Nepal himself was removed from the foreign department and replaced by Oli’s trusted Rajan Bhattarai.
Both factions have replaced members within their own groups with their own loyalists, indicating that the UML was all but split.
The UML’s Bishnu Rijal, who is close to Nepal, says: “This isn’t about the egos of the leaders. It is a management issue. Not following the party statute is a problem. Madhav Kumar Nepal has never rejected Oli as party president. The bone of contention is about those not following the rules.”
Even so, it is the deep distrust between Oli and Nepal that is dictating the UML’s internal dynamics. Nepal never fails to rub it in that Oli only won the convention through a small margin, and that he continues to be the undisputed leader of the party.
“Oli doesn’t have a majority in the Politburo, although the two leaders are tied in the Standing Committee. Nepal has a better hold over Province-1, Bagmati, Karnali and far-western regions. The problem started with Oli thinking he could get away with anything he wanted as the party president,” Rijal said.