Brouhaha in SaurahaBy the time the convention was over, it was clearer than ever who called the shots in the party.
As the 10th convention of the CPN-UML in Chitwan comes to a close, it feels as if a grand street carnival has finally come to a denouement. If there is one major takeaway from the political melee, it is that KP Sharma Oli has consolidated his power even more despite a disastrous spell as party chair and prime minister. The past one year has seen the worst of Oli, as he applied every treachery in the book to diminish democracy in the country and the party.
Under Oli, the CPN-UML, the single largest party in Parliament, squandered a historic mandate given by the people in the 2017 elections as he made one effort after another to dissolve the House and brought political discourse to the level of street fight. In addition to losing the government at the centre, the CPN-UML managed to lose governments in four provinces. If that were not enough, Oli could not hold the Nepal Communist Party together; he also caused, to a large extent, the break-up of the CPN-UML.
If anything, Oli has only a long list of failures to show if he were to be asked what exactly he did during his last tenure as party chair. If democratic politics were the mainstay of the CPN-UML, all odds would have been against Oli this time. For that reason, one would have thought that the party would punish him, or at least admonish him, at the convention. However, his party comrades not only failed to make him accountable for his actions, but also gave him an even bigger mandate by mostly allowing him to make unanimous—read unilateral—decisions in intra-party affairs.
As the convention has shown, Oli is unstoppable—at least for now. Those who wanted to see Oli’s power trimmed during this convention are in for a big disappointment, as he has made the party a one-man show. Oli literally pulled little chits out of his pocket and read aloud the names of his acolytes as new office bearers. That is the lowest you can go in the convention of a party that claims to be democratic. By the time the convention was over, it was clearer than ever who calls the shots in the party.
Oli could very well have achieved the same results through elections; but he probably did not want to take a chance, for he was not certain what really was in the minds of his cadres. But he also probably did not want elections because he wanted to show that he could make unilateral decisions in the party’s internal affairs and get them passed as its unanimous decision. It is this hubris that makes KP Sharma Oli who he is, and he likes to flaunt that image.
There is no denying that Oli has won the elections at the cost of values, ethics and morals. But the question is: Do these things even matter to Oli and most of his party comrades anymore? The answer seems to be a resounding "No", as Oli and his friends have reaped rewards rather than pay for their actions. To their credit, Ghanashyam Bhusal and Bhim Rawal have shown the courage to stand up for democratic politics within the party even as they knew they had little chance against a leader who has become more powerful than ever and is also unapologetically vindictive.
Going by Oli’s past antics, those who do not fall in his line will be pushed further to the periphery; but they have at least shown the audacity to challenge the leader who clearly is megalomaniac if not authoritarian. Their loss at the polls, as well as their marginal position in a party that has fallen in Oli’s line, is testimony to the fact that they at least tried. The courage just to stand up, when everyone else is falling in line, is worth celebrating.