Janardan Sharma: Our mandate is to prepare a proposal that will break the deadlock, in a way acceptable to allThe former deputy commander of the Maoist army and the ruling party’s standing committee member, on how the current crisis in Nepal Communist Party may be resolved.
A former deputy commander of the Maoist army, Janardan Sharma is currently one of the ruling Nepal Communist Party’s Standing Committee members. Sharma, who served as home minister and energy minister in the past, played his role as a key negotiator during the unity of the country’s two largest communist parties nearly three years ago, is also a member of the taskforce formed recently to find ways to iron out the differences between party chairs KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal. The Post’s Tika R Pradhan caught up with Sharma to discuss how the current crisis in the ruling party may be resolved.
You have been involved in resolving the conflict for long. Would you elaborate on your efforts?
As one of the initiators for the unification of the two communist parties, it was my duty to help resolve the conflict in the party. In the context of implementing the agreements made during the unification process, some contradictions had surfaced. The conflict continued to escalate and gave way to factional politics in the party.
A new kind of polarisation concerns us now at a time when the country is grappling with several problems. The country had to fight against several issues—the country’s (new) map, coronavirus, floods and landslides, among others. Conflict with the party surfaced when the country had to tackle external problems and this caused extreme dissatisfaction among the people.
We were also concerned about the situation. Along with other leaders, I discussed with Dahal and the prime minister how to give the unification process its complete shape. We reminded both the chairs about their mistakes and urged them to correct them but they tried to use their powers, creating fissures. They have finally realised the consequences of a party split and after pressure from the people and the party rank and file, they have a realisation now that they should patch up. They have agreed to resolve the differences by preparing a common proposal. We are now in a position to prepare a common proposal.
What do you think are the major reasons behind the prolonged conflict?
While uniting the two parties, we adopted a new practice—dual chairmanship. The main root of the problem is the two-chair system. Two swords do not fit in a sheath. That’s the major problem and that was also contributed by the lack of proper work division between them. There was a problem in implementing whatever the work division they had, establishing the procedure and system.
Lately, all these outstanding issues nurtured the egos of both leaders, instead of taking them to a resolution. When they feel that their egos were hurt, that could lead to a party split. These are the major issues. Major contradictions should have been political and ideological, but other issues were seen as the bone of contention, which led to the problem.
Among the two chairs who do you think was more responsible for leading the party to this stage?
I cannot say who contributed more to the conflict as I’m now in a position to manage conflict. Both the leaders have their roles in fuelling the tension depending on the issues. But they abandoned the main basis of taking decisions in consensus. These two chairs had unified the two parties as institutions but they acted like individuals, forgetting the reality. That caused the problem. They went to their past when both the leaders were the sole chairs of their parties, instead of resolving the present challenges and leading the party effectively. We all know, people and cadres have also seen who is more responsible but their discussions guided by the past reality were responsible for fuelling the conflict. We told them to face the present challenges. Now they have realized their shortcomings and are ready for managing the conflict.
What matters and situations played a role in bringing both the chairs to a compromise?
They had a feeling that they would be able to do whatever they wanted in their individual capacities, which was not possible for either Oli alone or Dahal. They thought of themselves as individuals, instead of the head of an organisation. There are huge organisations and teams of leaders behind them. They all have cautioned the two chairs. Also the necessity of the country and the people kept on pressing them. Besides, they self-evaluated where the party would go if they let the conflict linger. We have told them that we won’t allow them to lead the party towards a split. In particular, we three including Bishnu Poudel and Shankar Pokhrel continuously put pressure on them, besides everyone. Central committee members, Standing Committee members and the lawmakers and leaders from the districts continued to exert pressure on the top leaders against splitting the party. But the major reason was their internal realisation—things won’t come to place only from external pressure, without the intentions of the two leaders to save the party.
What will be the demands of the Dahal-Nepal faction that Oli must relinquish one of the two positions? It seems that Oli’s won the game.
This is nobody’s win or loss. Only the attitude of the people trying to split the party and weakening it will lose. Nepal Communist Party and the Nepali people will win. Since it gives a way out, this will be a victory for all— the movement, party, well-wishers, nation and all of us.
It seems that Oli and Dahal have decided to patch up. What will be the roles of Madhav Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal?
There is no difference in Dahal’s group as he gave the names for the task force in consultation with leaders close to him. Bhim Rawal and Surendra Pandey were included in the task force as per the recommendation of Nepal so I don’t think there is any dissatisfaction.
There has not been any agreement between the leaders. All the problems were also the outcome of the agreements we reached outside the committee. We won’t accept any agreement done beyond the party committees. Everything will be decided through party committees and everyone will follow them ensuring that the party runs in a system. All the leaders have their own roles in the party and there is nobody without a role in the party and now the government and party will be managed and strengthened. Now the party will make necessary preparations for the unity general convention. Also the roles of all leaders including Madhav Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal and Narayan Kaji Shrestha will be determined by the party committees.
What is the mandate of the task force? When will it prepare its proposal?
There is no concrete mandate for the task force. Though not clearly identified, the only mandate is to prepare a proposal that will break the deadlock both in the party and the government, in a way that is acceptable to all. There is no time limit for us but we will try to complete it within the next two-three days.
What about the general convention? Has there been any understanding between Oli, Dahal for it?
There has not been any understanding. Since this is unity general convention, party’s guidelines will be followed and the task force will also make some recommendations. During the latest meeting at Sheetal Niwas, no agreement was reached. There were discussions among the leaders on when to hold the general convention. The only thing we should understand is that by then the two leaders had not realised that they must patch up. They were for a continuation of their fight, which they did for some more time.
Some analysts say that the party was just heading for a ceasefire and that conflict will re-emerge sooner or later. What do you think?
I can’t say new problems won’t arise. But the existing contradictions won’t repeat in this form. It’s a continuous process in a party that new problems arise and they should be resolved. This is not only a ceasefire but a commitment to move ahead in a unified manner.
There are charges that you have been working in Oli’s favour to become the home minister.
Some of our friends see their life in positions. Both the chairs—Oli and Dahal—had offered me ministerial portfolios twice and that of the Speaker but I turned them all down. My target is not a position but to save the party and the movement