KATHMANDU, June 11: In a clear indication of hardening of its stance against the party´s dissident leaders from Madhesi, ethnic and indigenous communities, the CPN-UML has removed the party´s Kathmandu Valley Coordinator Rajendra Shrestha and appointed Krishna Gopal Shrestha in the position.
The party´s standing committee meeting on Sunday took the decision to this effect even as several influential leaders including Vice-chairman Ashok Rai, politburo members Prithivi Subba Gurung, Ram Chandra Jha and Bijay Subba and Central Committee member Rajendra Shrestha, among others, have been fighting against the party leadership for standing against the delineation and naming of provinces based on ethnic identities.
Leaders said they decided to remove Rajendra Shrestha from the position as he remained inactive in the party´s crucial responsibility even during CPN-UML and other political parties convened a joint mass gathering at Khulamunch [open air theater] in Kathmandu on Friday.
"Today´s [Sunday] meeting decided to remove Rajendra Shrestha from the position of valley coordinator. He can continue to work in his capacity of central committee member but will get additional responsibility only after he engages actively in party activities and works in accordance with the party´s official decisions," a standing committee member told Republica. "We took the decision also because we can´t leave such an important position to someone who is inactive."
Asked for comment on the party´s decision, Rajendra preferred not to react on the matter saying he was not officially informed about the decision. "I am still with the UML with all my heart and mind but if the party leadership doesn´t respond positively to our grievances I will have no option but to rethink accordingly," he told Republica.
While Krishna Gopal, the new valley coordinator, is loyal to party´s third-position leader KP Sharma Oli, Rajendra was close with party Chairman Jhalanath Khanal at the time Oli ran a rival faction within the party establishment.
Also, the standing committee designated party Secretary Yubaraj Gyawali as chief of the party organization department, which is a powerful position in the UML. So far, General Secretary Ishwar Pokharel was looking after the department. But now onward general secretary Pokharel will be overseeing the party´s overall activities.
Another Secretary Bishnu Paudel has been designated as the secretary at the central secretariat, the portfolio held by Gyawali so far. Paudel is also a trusted loyal of Oli.
Of the three secretaries--Gyawali, Paudel and Shankar Pokharel--the latter two are close to Oli whereas Gyawali is loyal to Khanal. Shankar Pokharel is chief of the party´s parliamentary department. He also worked as deputy parliamentary party leader but the post no longer exists as the parliament itself has been dissolved.
The latest reshuffle in the party is also the result of the understanding reached between Khanal and Oli some months back. As per the past deal, Khanal agreed to elevate Oli to the party´s third position and to give some vital positions to the leaders loyal to him while Oli reciprocated by dissolving parallel bodies committing to cooperate with the party chairman.