Monday, 25 January, 2021

NCP In Document Dilemma

Narayan Upadhyay


Factional rift in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has refused to die down as the party has found it in complete disarray with the presentation of two separate political documents. According to the political analysts, the documents are a bundle of disparagement heaped by the two NCP chairs on each other, which have only exacerbated existing differences among the party bigwigs who are now out to hurt the stature of the opponents, instead of thrashing out an enduring solution to safeguard the unity.
The two chairpersons have hurled vitriolic diatribes on each other that have left an ethical question mark on the two and spoke volumes how extensive the schism has become within the ruling party. The two dominant NCP leaders have involved in personal attacks and exchanging barbs, much to the chagrin of several neutral party functionaries who want party unity unbroken. Responding to the political document presented by party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda on November 13, party chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli dismissed all allegations against him. He asked the party co-chair to prove all allegations or face consequences.
Hurdle to unification
In his 39-page document submitted at the secretariat meeting on November 28, Oli accused Prachanda of setting up obstacles in settling the unification process of the NCP created after merging the erstwhile CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre, three years ago. In his lengthy repudiation of Prachanda allegations, Oli upbraided his co-chair for creating troubles for him in running the government despite possessing a substantial majority in the federal parliament. He took a swipe at Prachanda for showing hostility even after agreeing for uniting the two parties and berated the latter for eyeing lucrative government positions for his dear ones. Accusing the former Maoist strongman of not siding with the completion of transitional justice process, PM Oli called into question Prachanda's earlier remarks in which the latter owned up only 5,000 deaths that occurred in the insurgency era.
At the secretariat meeting held earlier, Prachanda, through in his 19-page document, had attacked the PM Oli, calling him of being an arrogant person, working arbitrarily without listening to the urges and grudges of senior leaders. The PM, according to Prachanda, neglected the decisions of the majority and sought to divide the party. He alleged the PM had overlooked charges of corruption levelled against his government, which had their direct bearing on the life of the party. In his rebuttal, the PM hinted he was ready to go to any extreme. He stated that if one is unhappy with the party, he/she could quit it or create another party. According to him, the dissenting leaders can dissolve the party and form another one.
The exchange of barbs is detriment for the party's wellbeing, though the PM's reply is a sign he is not in a mood to offer an olive branch. His long rejoinder is symbolic that he is neither ready to play the second fiddle nor will he give in to any coercion from the Prachanda-Nepal faction to relinquish one of the two positions he has held. The PM has also hinted at his willingness to sidestep his adversaries while he leads the party and the government. Amid the growing strains, Oli held talks with the Nepali Congress president, which many construed as a step to solicit favour from the main opposition in case his challengers pull the rug under his feet.
However, taking cues from the leaders’ impulses, we can maintain that no matter how critical they are of their peers, they can join hands to rivals for own benefits. To reinforce this fact, the key leaders of the Prachanda-Nepal faction, mainly Prachanda and Narayan Kaji Shrestha, 'commended' the PM for presenting views through the document. Since the secretariat formally registered the political documents from two chairpersons, the powerful body would review them. For some leaders, the secretariat meetings held in a quick succession lately has augured well, for it would help start dialogues in the party committees. Earlier, the PM was hesitant in calling the secretariat or standing committee meetings.
After the submission of documents and shouting match, one is inquisitive to learn about the possible fallout. We, however, need to see Prachanda's next move vis-à-vis the PM's disapproval of his peer's allegations. Time will reveal whether Prachanda will come up with another strong document to vilify the PM or goes on for a 'course correction' by withdrawing his allegations and putting on hold his demand- the PM should quit either the post of chair or PM. Given the increasing chasm, the PM too may work out his next move after considering his opponent’s strategy.
On a tightrope
Although Prachanda is known for altering his stance as per his personal convenience and benefits, the senior leaders - Madhav Kumar Nepal, Bam Dev Gautam, Jhalnath Khanal, who have so far been backing Prachanda against the PM, appear in no frame of mind to be lenient on the PM. In a veiled attack on Oli, Nepal said that nobody, neither the PM nor the co-chair, was above the party and everyone should abide by the party's decisions. Despite deriding his party opponents in severest terms, the PM at present is walking a tightrope as he is said to be lacking the required numerical strength in the party's Secretariat, Standing Committee and the Central Committee. This has placed him in the red zone, compelling him to show his reluctance for calling meetings of the powerful bodies as demanded by his party comrades.
It is yet unclear what course the NCP will take - whether it would stand united after patching up differences and disputes but no NCP leader wants to carry the tag of splitter of a party with near two-thirds majority in the House. Almost every leader has expressed that he/she would not allow the party to split at any cost. Similarly, the rival leaders are in a dilemma: If the Prachanda-headed group walks out of the party, they will be at receiving end for they lack enough figures and support to register a separate party that can form a government. Similarly, if the party breaks, the Oli loyalists too will find it difficult, if not impossible, to remain in power for the full term. They will require the backing of the NC or the Samajwadi Janata Party to stay in the government.
With serious rift widening further after the presentation of two political documents, the dread of unfavourable future consequences arising out of a potential party split has gripped rival leaders, which may discourage them to break the party, at least for the time being.

(Upadhyay is Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal. 

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