Sunday, 17 January, 2021

NCP Split : A Windfall For Opposition

Narayan Upadhyay

As the shocking split in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has given rise to chaos and uncertainty in the country's politics, reality has dawned upon the NCP leaders and the common citizens - unity of the two communist parties had remained a mirage owing to urges and grudges of the party top brasses. Several NCP rank and file must have felt deceived by the unexpected turn of events in the ruling dispensation. They will not forget the fissure in the party that had three years ago contested the general elections as a single political entity. Also, many of them will not forgive the leaders accused of engineering the unthinkable split.
At present, two NCP factions - each led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda - are burning the midnight oil to prove their mettle over opponents. Each of them has marshalled forces at the Supreme Court, the Election Commission, and is accused of indulging in political manipulations to gain the upper hand. But not all people are unhappy over the undesired split in the biggest party that had near two-third majority in the now-dissolved House of Representatives. The split has buoyed rival parties and groups that are now frothing at the prospect of grabbing mileage out of present political turmoil and NCP split, provoked by what many termed the illegitimate step of dissolving the Lower House of the parliament.

Bane of bickering
The bane of destructive bickering has become a blessing for a few NCP leaders, who were earlier pushed to the margin owing to their disagreements with the party's bigwigs or because of their loyalty to the rival factions. These leaders are hoping to bounce back and to secure individual or collective benefits in the breakaway party.
Because of the urgency of the new situation, the top erstwhile NCP brasses have been engaged in appeasing many senior or junior leaders to bolster their faction's position. For example, the Prime Minister recently offered ministerial portfolios to the leaders from the Prachanda-Nepal group. The expansion and the reshuffle of the cabinet saw die-hard supporters of Prachanda gaining ministerial berths. Many "fence-sitters' are weighing their chances of obtaining the upper hand over others. They will surely profess their fidelity to the faction that emerges triumphant in the present competition.
In the meantime, the discord among the senior communists has unleashed commotion in the provincial governments. In a tit-for-tat act against the bloc, led by PM Oli, the Prachanda-Nepal group is stepping up efforts to dislodge chief ministers of several of seven provinces. The pro-Oli chief ministers in provinces are now facing no-confidence motions from the pro Prachanda-Nepal parliamentarians. If everything goes as planned, the Prachanda-Nepal group will unseat pro-Oli chief ministers. As the pro-Oli chief ministers faced the ire of the rival faction, the Nepali Congress will cash in on the Oli-Prachanda rivalry by claiming ministerial or other lucrative berths in the provincial set-up.
The NC and its president, too, appear to have eyed the party's new opportunities amid the ongoing NCP tussle over the House dissolution. Along with the NC, a few other parties and groups expect to capitalise on the opportunities knocking at their doors. They are trying to make the most out of the NCP split.
NC chief Sher Bahadur Deuba is thought to have a healthy working rapport with the top leaders of the NCP factions. However, he has vexed his party colleagues by not criticising openly the PM’s ‘unconstitutional act of dissolving the House', despite being the boss of a party that prides over its democratic credential and parliamentary values and principles. At present, Deuba has maintained a 'go-slow approach' over unfolding political events. He hasn't berated the House dissolution in strict terms, though his party-men egged on him to speak against the dissolution.
Interestingly, the NC chief has not kept under the wraps his desire to become the prime minister for the sixth time. He sees his opportunity to become the prime minister by taking advantage of the ongoing strife between the two NCP factions. In case the House is restored, NC’s role becomes crucial for either faction in forming the next government.
Likewise, if the Supreme Court supports the government's House dissolution, the NC can take benefits of the rivalry of the two communist groups by bringing to light the lapses of the feuding communist leaders in the mid-term polls. The voters who are disappointed over the NCP splitting and its failure to deliver on their promises can opt to vote for the NC. Similarly, the Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) is eyeing to seize more space following a division in the biggest communist party of the country. During the last general elections, the NC and the Madhes-based parties conceded huge votes to the unified NCP. The split, many predict, may spur the rival communist factions to suffer the same fate during the mid-term polls, which the NC and JSP had sustained during the last general election.
The other group that has expected to obtain mileage from the present chaos is none other than the pro-monarchist group. The pro-royalists recently organised rallies that coincided with the intensifying crises in the ruling party. After the turmoil in the ruling NCP gained pace, the supporters of the ex-King cried foul over the present federal republican system of governance. They cited that the turmoil in major parties was fallout of the present system and new constitution. They have expected to capitalise on the ongoing political turbulence.
Another party energised by the House dissolution and declaration of the snap polls elections and bad blood among the NCP leaders is the pro-Hindu and pro-monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party. They welcomed the announcement of mid-term polls, stating they would contest the polls raising their demand of scrapping the secular provision from the constitution of restoring the monarchy. The RPP has high hope of regaining their lost constituencies following a split in the largest communist party.

Political bonus
The NCP bigwigs failed miserably to thrash out a far-reaching solution to their self-destructive disputes. They must accept the fault of creating an unfavourable situation that has reinvigorated opposition groups and parties that would bank on the communist rivalry to wrest the lost constituencies from the communists. With an eye on a political bonus, the opponents would do their best to expose the drawbacks of the communist apparatchiks to savour the political windfall the split has brought to them.

(Upadhyay is Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal. 

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