Friday, 30 July, 2021

No End To Political Theatrics

Narayan Upadhyay


With political theatrics getting intense every passing day, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli led government, once enjoying a nearly two-thirds majority, has found itself at the receiving end. However, it has also become apparent that the move to oust him would not be a cakewalk for his rivals. As the bickering among the erstwhile comrades has refused to die down, the Maoist Centre and its strongman, Prachanda can anytime withdraw his party's support to the government. As a preamble to this move, his party initiated action against all defectors who joined the government. The party action means many of these Maoist defectors will lose party membership, ministerial portfolios and their membership to the parliament.
Even in the face of exacerbating feud, PM Oli has demonstrated his never-say-die attitude and has employed every possible strategy to save his government. Earlier, he tried to rope in the Nepali Congress and later the Janata Samajwadi Party to get enough support in the HoR offering them fat government and other posts. After Congress showed its reluctance to back him, Oli has now been banking on the JSP, which has now emerged as a key force in deciding the formation of the next government. Given the inadequate number of loyalists in the parliament, Oli will require backing from the HoR parliamentarians outside of his party if he has to continue in power. To consolidate his clout in the divided UML, he has recently appointed several Maoist Centre defectors to his central committee.

If we look at the mood of the majority of leaders in the main opposition and the JSP, they are less likely to throw their weight behind PM Oli, who has drawn flak for dissolving the House of Representatives after failing to manage the squabble in the erstwhile Nepal Communist Party (NCP). Oli had cited he was compelled to take the extreme and compulsive step after his party colleagues tried to dethrone him. The problems for the PM did not subside even after the Supreme Court voided the NCP as a party and decreed the two unified parties - the CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre - to revert to their original avatars. The SC verdict compelled many leaders who had been siding either with the Oli or the Prachanda-Nepal group to return to their old parties. Despite leaders coming to their former party-fold, solidarity among them looks a distant hope.
The seething fracas took another unsavoury turn after UML chair Oli relieved many leaders of the Nepal-Khanal faction of their party posts and appointed Maoist Centre defectors to the party's central committee. The Nepal-Khanal faction retaliated by creating parallel bodies. Also, the party opponents showed their combative mood by asking the Election Commission not to recognise new central committee office-bearers chosen by the party chair as the move was against the UML's statute. Chair Oli has lately warned that leaders who would not show up at party meetings may forfeit their central committee positions.
The troubles for the PM seem to have doubled after the Nepali Congress and the Maoist Centre upped their ante against the government. The current political scenario further indicates the Nepal-Khanal faction of the UML too may team up with anyone that would strive to unseat PM Oli. This faction might have assumed that once Oli loses his stronghold in the party and the government, many other leaders of the Oli group would join their side.
At present, three parties - the Nepali Congress, the NCP-Maoist Centre and the JSP, are having consultations to register a no-confidence motion in the HoR. Oli, a hardened leader, too is weighing his chances for sticking to power. The JSP is still wavering. The internal infighting within the JSP has made the party uncertain which groups the party would lend its support to. Because of indecision and delay, the JSP has witnessed rivalry between two JPS factions, each headed by Mahanta Thakur- Rajendra Mahato and Upendra Yadav-Dr Babu Ram Bhattarai, getting intense regarding which side the party must extend its support.
Such a situation will boost the morale of the beleaguered PM. The opponents of Oli can oust him only when the JSP with its 32 HoR legislators, back the no-confidence motion unitedly. The combined force of the Nepali Congress (61 MPs) and the Maoist Centre (53) is inadequate to see the censure motion against the PM through at the HoR.
In the meantime, the Nepal-Khanal faction is cosying up with the Maoist Centre. The recent contacts of leaders Nepal and Khanal with Maoist supremo Prachanda hinted they are more at ease with their former allies. It is possible that once they can oust Oli from power, the two groups will unite to make a separate and powerful communist entity following due processes.
Maoist Centre chair Prachanda and his party men have lately been engaged to devise ways to unseat the PM. He has prompted major parties to engineer a no-confidence motion against the government. Interestingly, he has yet to withdraw his party's support to the government. It seems once the issues regarding the chemistry to lead the future government are settled with the JSP and the Nepali Congress, the Maoist Centre probably will pull out its support to the government, compelling the latter to seek a confidence vote at the House floor.

Arduous battle
Given the present mathematical composition in the House, the Oli faction of the UML will be lacking enough number in proving its majority in the House. Even though a section or whole of the JSP extends its support to Oli, there are chances that many of his UML rivals would cross the floor or remain absent from the voting in the House to force him out of the government.
With rivals hatching their plots to dethrone him, PM Oli has an arduous battle to fight to remain in leadership and to keep his party - the UML - afloat. Many within and outside the UML believe that only a miracle can hold the party as a unified entity. It appears the ongoing strife between the two UML factions will come to an end only after causing enormous devastation to the communist movement and the UML, the party that has wielded a massive sway in the country’s politics after it came into existence.

(Upadhyay is Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal.