The government led by Nepal Communist Party (NCP) with a solid majority is in problem due to a prolonged intra-party feud. The unification of the largest two left parties CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre and their subsequent victory in the elections of the federal parliament and provincial assemblies had created hope for political stability that would ultimately create a favourable environment for social and economic development. But the party integration couldn’t work as expected since the top leadership did not live up to their promises and self-interest prevailed.
The recent tussle between the two chairmen of the party has thrown a blanket of despair and division among the party cadres. KP Gautam of the Gorkhapatra and Modnath Dhakal of The Rising Nepal talked to Chief Advisor of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Standing Committee Member of the Party, Bishnu Rimal, about the latest crisis in the NCP. Excerpts:
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is not receiving cooperation in his own party. What led to this situation?
This has not happened all of a sudden. A section in the party has begun openly speaking against the Prime Minister. They started demanding that he leave either the post of prime minister or chairman. If you read the current blames to and comments on him, you see no reason for gherao or obstruct him in his works because these accusations are superficial and are not political. These comments are full of bias, frustration and impulse. It means their intensions are not good.
What agreement was made during party integration?
There are rules that run the party. It was created with the integration of two largest parties – the CPN-UML and Maoist Centre. They had a dream while uniting the two largest political forces. Entire party bases were ecstatic, and cadres were moving together in the villages even before the formal announcement of the party unity. Legally, they were two different political forces competing with each other but when there was an alliance for the election, favourable environment for party integration was immediately created. The chairmen of the two parties had taken the entire responsibility of the integration and it was achieved when they forged a kind of agreement and announced on May 17, 2018 at Baluwatar at a joint meeting of the central committees of the two parties. Then it was agreed that the basis of integration wouldn’t be the popular votes garnered in the election, seats won in the local elections and size of the party at the parliament. The policies and methods of the party unification were created not on the basis of head count but mutual understanding. It was not a traditional unification that generally happens between a large and a small political party.
We said and believed that it was an equation of two different political ideologies not that of the power. If it was a unification of power, we would have counted every vote received. The committees would be formed on power sharing of 75 per cent and 25 per cent as the Maoist had received 1.1 million and UML 3.3 million votes. But we did not count it to unite the parties and did it differently and said then that the decisions would be made with mutual understanding until the party holds the general assembly. The formula for the mutual understanding was that a proposal would be made with the consent of both the chairmen, general secretary would present the agenda in the Secretariat meeting and the issues not agreed initially would be resolved through talks.
However, both the sides are exploiting the word ‘consent’ for their own interest?
The ups and downs that we see now are the result of the breaking of the methodologies that were created to run the party in consent. Some leaders are talking about creating a proposal against the prime minister, this is the recent development in that row. The Secretariat meeting was held for about 73 times in the past, and some members made their collective opinion on the agenda before the meeting and imposed it in the meeting. The PM multiple times requested not to do so and said that the party structure would be disturbed if we begin to count the number of people from each party. But comrades did not heed to that request. The recent strife happened as we forgot the path of consent. When we try to adjust the system made for the integration during the party unification, it certainly creates problems.
Approximately a year ago, the two presidents had agreed that the party would be run by Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda as an Executive Chairman and KP Sharma Oli would run the government for full five-year term. It created good vibes in the Central Committee meeting in January and February this year and the Standing Committee meeting before it. The PM participated in the inauguration of both the meetings and let Prachanda run the meeting. Then there were media reports saying ‘no confidence’ motion could be presented after two years, which stirred the party line. Considering the very issue, the Standing Committee was held for about 82 days. While concluding the meeting in early September this year, the two chairmen discussed multiple issues. In an effort to further clarify the issues of consent, it was said that the general assembly would be organised in April 2022, Prachanda would run the party as the executive chairman and the PM would run the government. Most of the Standing Committee and Central Committee members say that the party should move ahead on the basis of the decision of September 11 and Inter-party Directives issued on September 14. We have used a phrase ‘cut-off date’ to mark September 11 as a day to forget the things of the past and hold the assessment of the weaknesses till the general convention. The PM is trying to begin the integration from a fresh point but leaders from the party secretariat are blaming him. It was like a rumour in the past but it’s come in a series of written documents, even in the media. Sometimes I feel whether some friends want to bypass the party’s method, system and policies or sabotage the party unification process.
Weren’t there any lapses on the part of the chairman and PM?
According to the media reports, there wasn’t a consent in the appointment of ministers as per the compliant letter. However, they were only discussing the subjects before the ‘cut-off date’, it’s like somebody is whining continuously in memory of the past events. That document does not prove anything worthy beyond the agreement of September 11. If it was about appointment of three ministers and ambassadors, the PM, in response to the letter of the five leaders, had said that the Secretariat discussed the principles in terms of the ministerial appointments and let the two chairmen decide about it. There was a month-long discussion regarding the selection of leaders for the posts. Before a day of the cabinet reshuffle, the PM had obtained the consent about the leaders to be appointed from Prachanda and the latter had clearly agreed to move ahead with the names. But the very next morning, Prachanda asked the PM to appoint only the Finance Minister and let the remaining portfolios vacant. But the PM had already sent the names to the President and refused to backtrack from the decision.
However, it is not an event that caused the sky to fall. If you tag General Secretary Bishnu Paudel and other two leaders with any of the factions in the party, there would be further expansion of the cabinet after Tihar. Candidates of other factions can be adjusted then. Prachanda himself had proposed the ambassador to the USA while the two chairmen shared consent on Lok Darshan Regmi’s name. Regarding the ambassador to South Africa, the PM asked to add another candidate as the Parliamentary Hearing Committee raised the issue of inclusiveness because the other two candidates were Brahmin. These are just the issues to debate, they do not affect the party unity. In addition to that, the PM had answered about it in response to the letter from the five leaders. If there were any different agreements after September 11, let’s discuss them openly and review them. If we bruise our heart with such issues, there are no reasons to be imbalanced.
In reference to the meeting with the RAW Chief, the compliant letter has questioned about the nationalism of the PM. What do you say about it?
PM Oli congratulated his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on the occasion of its Independence Day. As PM Oli raised the issues of the border dispute and said the issue should be resolved at the earliest, PM Modi said that he would send an envoy to talk about the matter. Could you dictate a foreign PM to send a particular person as his envoy? No PM can choose a person as an envoy of his foreign counterpart. PM Oli agreed on Modi’s proposal. Diplomatic notes were exchanged, Samanta Kumar Goyal came here, met the PM and the notes were recorded at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. PM Modi’s envoy met his counterpart here in Neal. The visit has created a more favourable environment for talks between the two countries. Don’t the leaders who are raising the questions regarding this know about the diplomatic etiquettes or track two diplomacy?
Do you think they raised the questions without any basis?
It’s about troubling yourself when you question the issue that is so clear. I request the leaders who are raising such issues just to look at their background. PM Oli is not someone who executes such activities in a hush-hush manner. Don’t we know some of our leaders have reached Singapore pretending a sickness and met the people from foreign secret services? This is not the issue to be brought into discussion. We all know who meets the people of which level. There are no exposes. The accusations made on the PM are defamatory and character assassinating. They are refutable. This is not the ideological discussion about political course or line.
There are signs of homework for reconciliation as well. Would the PM answer the questions raised by the leaders?
The PM would give a written answer, he is not someone who remains silent. He has asked for a 10-day period for the same. However, Chairman Prachanda should clarify about the issues mentioned in the complaint letter which have already been raised by him as the proposal in the meeting. But I think PM is a political person and would answer politically, he always stands by the party unity.
Meanwhile, there were talks about Chinese ambassador’s activism to resolve the intra-party crisis. Is this really happening?
People who do not believe in their power and strength talk about such things. What would the Chinese ambassador do? She is not someone who would make someone party chair or the PM. It’s a decision to be taken by the party cadres and people. Didn’t we for long tell India to refrain from micro-management in Nepal? Hadn’t that issue contested in the Standing Committee meeting? We are firm in our stand that no country should try to micro-manage our politics and society. We won’t tolerate the intervention from any country of people of other nation in our national issues. If there are foreign forces involved in disturbing the internal harmony in the party or country, we must break them. However, I don’t think any of our leaders are weak enough to be manipulated by some external force.
Many people feel that the NCP has reached the brink of split. What would happen in the near future?
In my understanding, no chairman is allowed to introduce a proposal single-handedly, there should be proposal jointly by both of them. So the compliant letter distributed recently is not registered at the Secretariat. The recent Secretariat meeting made a mistake, it should have asked for a joint proposal. However, the PM has said that he would respond to the compliant and the Secretariat allowed him to do so. All the leaders must remember the provision in the party statute. Likewise, they must unconditionally take back their blames made to the PM. After that, if there are any weaknesses, they could be presented as the agenda in the Standing Committee meeting.
The proposal of Chairman Prachanda is informal because it was never registered. Is it possible that the Prime Minister’s proposal will also remain undocumented?
It is up to the Secretariat to decide on this matter. Who gave consent to the Prime Minister to furnish his replies? The paper circulated by another Chair has not been registered and cannot be regarded as a proposal. There is a hullabaloo over this paper. The paper is objectionable, maybe for Chairman Prachanda himself. I don’t know who is misleading him. I don’t think he wants to bring conflict into the party. It is doubtful if he wrote it or somebody else did it for him.
Chairman Prachanda has said that he had made sacrifices time and again but had faced humiliation. He had demanded it is now the turn of the Prime Minister to make sacrifices?
Going back to insignificant details of the past is not suitable for communist leaders. If the leaders of such high stature such as ex-PM and ex-party chief resort to such nitpicking, how can they lead the communist movement? This is a childish attitude.
Real sacrifice lies in the agreement and unity between the two streams. A party that had secured 75 per cent popular votes has offered too much share to a party that had secured 25 per cent of popular votes. While one camp got President, the other got Vice President. Posts have been equally divided. The PM has entrusted him to run the party and conduct the general convention while taking full leadership of the government himself. He has even said that he would not become party chair after the general convention. He has pledged not to vie for premiership as well. Is he any inferior in terms of sacrifice?
Is this problem the result of the failure to manage the demands of ex-prime minister leaders of NCP?
In many countries, executive chiefs of the government do not return to the post once they are out. Same is the case regarding the party leadership. But we have the tradition of making returns again and again. They compare things with their former role and make complaints. Of course, nobody should face the deficit of honour and recognition. Such dignitaries always deserve respect.
There should be norms in this regard. A rule had been formulated by the former CPN-UML on his matter. Now the rules regarding the age bar of 70 year and the repetition in the post of PM and party chief have been forgotten. By respecting this rule, it is necessary to give the senior leaders the role of guardian and hand over the executive roles to the new generation. This matter must be discussed in the upcoming general convention.
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