Nepal's embattled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli on Sunday sprang a surprise on his rivals and got the President to dissolve Parliament, a controversial move amidst a prolonged tussle for power between him and former premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” within the ruling dispensation.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved Parliament's House of Representatives at Oli's recommendation and announced mid-term general election in April-May, a decision termed “unconstitutional, impulsive and autocratic” by the Opposition and dissidents in the Nepal Communist Party.
Earlier in the day, an emergency meeting of the Cabinet chaired by Oli decided to recommend the President for the dissolution of Parliament, a senior Standing Committee member of the NCP told PTI.
The first phase of the mid-term election will be held on April 30 and May 10 for the second phase, the Rashtrapati Bhawan said.
The 275-member House of Representatives, which is the lower house of Parliament, was elected in 2017 for a five-year term.
The upper house is the National Assembly.
The move comes as the intra-party feud reached climax in the ruling NCP which has been witnessing months long tussle between two factions, one led by 68-year-old Oli and Party's chairman and another led by 66-year-old “Prachanda”, also the executive chair of the party and former premier.
Expressing dissatisfaction over Oli's move to dissolve the House, seven ministers from his Cabinet resigned in protest.
Those who put in their papers are minister for science and education Giriraj Mani Pokharel, minister for energy and water resources Barshaman Pun, minister for agriculture Ghanashyam Bhushal, minister for labour and employment Rameshwor Raya Yadav, minister for tourism Yogesh Bhattarai, minister for forest and environment Shakti Basnet and minister for drinking water and sanitation Bina Magar.
The seven ministers, belonging to the Prachanda faction, announced their resignation in a joint statement issued during a press conference here.
The Nepali Congress, the main Opposition in Parliament, said that Oli's recommendation to dissolve the House was against the provisions and spirit of the Constitution, and the party will strongly oppose the move.
“We have taken this move as Oli's final attempt to fulfil his authoritarian desire,” the NC said in a statement issued by party's spokesman Bishwa Prakash Sharma.
“It is condemnable to push the country towards instability because of intra-party conflict amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The party also called the decision “unconstitutional and impulsive”, and appealed to President Bhandari to fulfil her role as a guardian of the Constitution by rejecting it.
Spokesperson of the NCP Narayankaji Shrestha termed Oli's move as “undemocratic, anti-constitutional and autocratic”.
Meanwhile, the NCP's Standing Committee meeting termed Oli's move as “unconstitutional, undemocratic and based on his personal whim”, and recommended to take a disciplinary action against the prime minister, Standing Committee member Ganesh Shah told PTI.
The recommendation for action will be forwarded to the Central Committee meeting which will be held on Wednesday, he said.
Of the total 44 members of the Standing Committee, 27 were present. Oli and his supporters skipped the meeting.
"The leaders have consulted about the problems caused by the decision of PM Oli," said Prachanda's press advisor Bishnu Sapkota.
Prachanda had visited Oli's residence on Sunday morning, but he had returned without meeting the Prime Minister, media reports said.
Senior NCP leader and former premier Madhav Kumar Nepal termed the move as unconstitutional.
Constitutional experts have also termed the move as unconstitutional.
As per the Constitution, there is no provision of dissolving Parliament by the Prime Minister of a majority government, they said, adding that it is likely to be challenged in court.
As long as there is a possibility of forming the government, there is no provision to dissolve the House, said constitutional expert Dinesh Tripathi.
Another expert Bhimarjun Acharya termed it a constitutional coup.
Former premier Dr Baburam Bhattarai said: “By inviting political uncertainty like before, this decision has torn apart our effort to improve the system from the Constitution Assembly. This is against democratic values and the Constitution".
The Prachanda and Madhav Nepal faction had been urging Oli to quit the post of Prime Minister amidst growing accusation and counter-accusation between the two factions in the NCP.
In June, Oli, known for his pro-China leanings, claimed that efforts were being made to oust him after his government redrew the country's political map by incorporating three strategically key Indian territories.
India had termed as "untenable" the "artificial enlargement" of the territorial claims by Nepal after its Parliament unanimously approved the new political map of the country featuring Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura areas which India maintains belong to it.
The NCP, formed after the merger between Oli led CPN-UML and Prachanda led CPN (Maoist Centre) in May 2018, is divided along the two factions led by Oli and Prachanda.
The Prachanda faction enjoys a majority in the nine-member Secretariat, the highest decision-making body of the party.