By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Prominent Nepali Communist Prachanda, a leading opponent within the ruling party of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli's decision to call for an early election, said on Wednesday the premier should resign and repent over the move.
Nepal was plunged into crisis on Dec. 20 when Oli declared he could no longer work with rivals in his Nepal Communist Party (NCP), dissolved parliament and called for a fresh election more than a year ahead of schedule.
Tens of thousands of people have since joined protests for or against the move.
"K.P.Oli if you want some political space, there is still time for you to resign and express repentance publicly," Prachanda told an anti-Oli rally.
Prachanda, a former prime minister who still goes by the nom de guerre he used while leading a decade-long Maoist insurgency that ended in 2006, said protests to oppose Oli's "unconstitutional" move would rage across Nepal.
"Oli is not interested in the election ... don't be misled by his talks about elections, they can't be held as planned," Prachanda told the cheering and whistle-blowing crowds, near Oli's office in the capital Kathmandu.
Oli blames Prachanda and other opponents in the party for a lack of cooperation he says has stymied effective government as the Himalayan nation seeks to navigate a pandemic-induced economic crisis.
The Supreme Court is hearing more than a dozen petitions challenging the dissolution of parliament. Judges are expected to give their verdict this month.
If the verdict is in Oli's favour then Nepal faces an election in two phases, on April 30 and May 10.
Last week, addressing a rally of supporters in Kathmandu, Oli said the dissolution of parliament was his prerogative and pledged that the vote would be held on schedule.
Nepal, a country of 30 million people, has seen vital remittances and tourism revenue hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected 272,349 people in the country, with 2,047 deaths.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma; Editing by Rupam Jain and Alex Richardson)