Monday, 24 January, 2022

NCP Split And Missed Opportunity

Uttam Maharjan

The communist movement emerged in Nepal with the establishment of the Nepal Communist Party on September 15, 1949. The founding General Secretary of the party was Pushpa Lal Shrestha. The main objectives of the party were to depose the Rana regime and eliminate feudalism and imperialism. Since then, much water has flowed under the Bagmati bridge. The communists have split and re-united umpteen times. However, the merger in May 2018 between the CPN-UML under the leadership of KP Sharma Oli and the CPN-Maoist Centre under the leadership of Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda is considered one of the milestones in communist history. The merger gave rise to the Nepal Communist Party that emerged the third largest communist force in Asia.

In the general election held in 2017, the NCP garnered nearly two-thirds of the seats in federal parliament. The party was also able to form six out of seven provincial governments and held a stranglehold on local governments as well. This created positive vibes among the people, who were fed up with political instability due to the inability of any government to run a full five years. The people were confident that the country would march towards prosperity.

In fact, Oli had established himself as a nationalist leader. He did not kowtow to the Indian establishment when the implicit embargo was imposed on the country by India amid the Madhess agitation blocking the Nepal-India border points. Oli also claimed Kalapani, Lipulek and Limpiyadhura by incorporating the territories into Nepal’s map. He launched the national motto - ‘the Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali.’
As time passed by, Oli’s credentials as a nationalist leader hit a knock. He failed to take back the Kalapani region. The region is so heavily guarded by the Indian forces that Nepalis are not allowed into the region. The chance of re-possessing the region is very remote. On the other hand, the ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’ motto remained unfulfilled. If anything, corruption grew by leaps and bounds during the premiership of Oli.

Ample chances
There were ample chances for the Oli government to make strides on the development front because it has a two-thirds majority. This very majority aroused arrogance in Oli and he moved heaven and earth to be the most powerful prime minister. He began to concentrate power in his hands by controlling the party, the federal government, provincial governments and local governments. He also brought various constitutional bodies under the ambit of the Prime Minister’s Office. All this shows that Oli wanted to have absolute control over the party and all the administrative apparatuses.

Prachanda was aware of all this. Further, there was an understanding between Oli and him when the former became the prime minister that they would helm the government by turns. But Oli did not keep to the understanding, which gave rise to a power tussle between them. Prachanda formed an informal alliance with Madhav Kumar Nepal to topple the Oli government. Some other prominent leaders also grew disappointed with the Oli government.

In the meantime, infighting intensified in the ruling party. Oli could not put the house in order because of his own arrogance and ego. And he took a drastic step in December 2020 and dissolved the House of Representatives, arguing that the government could not function owing to lack of cooperation from opposition parties. In fact, the House was dissolved because of infighting in the ruling party. However, the Supreme Court restored the House.

Oli again dissolved the House in May 2021. And the Supreme Court restored the House again, proving that the move of Oli was unconstitutional. The mandamus of the Supreme Court handed over the reins of government to the Nepali Congress with Sher Bahadur Deuba becoming the prime minister. The Supreme Court also invalidated the merger between the UML and Maoist Centre, bringing them back to the pre-merger status.
Factionalism was still continuing in the UML. Madhav Kumar Nepal felt humiliated and decided to break away from the party. In the meantime, the coalition government issued an ordinance, making provision that any faction of a political party could split the party with support from 20 per cent members of the parliamentary party or the central committee. Previously, support from 40 per cent of members each from the parliamentary party and from the central committee was needed to split a political party. Accordingly, Nepal registered a breakaway party, CPN-Unified Socialist, with the Election Commission in August with the support of 29 lawmakers and 55 central committee members.

Tarnished image
With the federal government under Oli gone, the four provincial governments under the grip of the UML have also been lost. With this, the image of Oli has been tarnished. Still, Oli is hanging on to the wish for absolute power. During the recently held tenth convention, Oli was given absolute powers to select office-bearers and Central Committee members. But some leaders like Bhim Rawal openly objected to this, safeguarding inner-party democracy in the party. The general election is one year away. The UML is still claiming that it will secure two-thirds of seats in the House of Representatives and form a stronger government. If the party fares well in the forthcoming general election, the height of Oli will rise and he will be able to regain his lost credentials.

(Maharjan has been regularly writing on contemporary issues for this daily since 2000.