Bhim Rawal: ‘There’s no other way than to abide by party system’The Standing Committee member on whether the party is heading towards a split, how it can remain united and what could be the opponent factions’ possible moves.
The ruling Nepal Communist Party’s Standing Committee meets on Sunday amid a deepening crisis. The two chairs, KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, are locked into a battle and both have presented their documents levelling charges against each other. The faction led by Dahal has upped the ante against Oli, demanding that the latter follow party procedures or step down.
Oli, however, has maintained his stance, at times even challenging his opponents to do whatever they can. Against this backdrop, the Post’s Tika R Pradhan spoke with Bhim Rawal, a Standing Committee member, on the ongoing crisis, how the party meeting will move ahead and what the Dahal faction’s next move will be.
This interview has been condensed for clarity.
Your party is holding a crucial meeting on Sunday. What do you expect from this meeting?
The agenda for the sixth Standing Committee meeting, which started last week, has already been finalised... that is solving existing problems within the party. Therefore, the meeting tomorrow will directly get into the agenda. According to the party statute, it has to deal with those problems and find their logical conclusion.
Can you provide details on what all happened over the past week as the party prepared for the meeting?
I haven’t seen any substantial progress made towards sorting out the problems the party is facing even though the two chairs met at Baluwatar. So I can’t say there were special preparations. However, all members of the Standing Committee, including the two party chairs, appear to be ready to participate in deliberations and express their opinion.
Will Oli attend the meeting tomorrow?
Of course. As party chair, he has to. It is his duty to participate [in the meeting] and listen to what party members have to say. It is incumbent upon him to help the party find a logical conclusion to the problems it is facing.
He hasn’t said he won’t participate. He was not present at the last meeting, but he had sent a letter saying that he fully trusts the Standing Committee members. So I believe he will join the meeting.
What do you think is the root cause of the ongoing problem in the party?
The root cause of the problem is failure to follow established rules and regulations. In addition, there is a lack of coordination between the party and the government and among party leaders. Failure to comply with decisions taken by different meetings too has led to the problems the party is facing today.
Who is responsible for non-implementation of the decisions then?
It is clear that those who are at the top are responsible. But to be precise, it’s KP Sharma Oli because he is the party chair and prime minister. That said, it doesn’t mean that Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is also the party chair, is not responsible.
What do you think is the solution to these problems then?
The solution is very easy. If Oli agrees to abide by the party statute and directives approved by the party’s political report or if he is ready to follow the party’s established practices, we will reach a solution. The main problem is his refusal to follow the party statute, rules and regulations.
But Oli has time and again said he won’t follow party decisions. What makes you think he will now?
These kinds of statements are unthinkable from a person who is party chair. Every leader and member should comply with them. Nobody is above the law… the party statute. When we have already agreed to follow the rule of law, a party leader can’t say he/she won’t attend the meetings or abide by party decisions. I think Oli as a responsible leader and prime minister will demonstrate magnanimity and agree to follow democratic practices.
What will the party do if he continues to violate party decisions?
I don’t think a person who is the party chair will do so.
However, the Standing Committee in itself has every authority to deal with the problems and come up with decisions.
Do you mean to say that the Dahal-Nepal faction will go by decision of the majority?
The question of majority and minority may not appear if both the chairs and other leaders agree to follow the rules and promise to abide by party decisions. But if differences persist, Clause 60 of our party statute says that the meeting can decide by majority. That is the process leaders have agreed to follow if differences can’t be ironed out.
If so, why despite commanding a majority, the Dahal-Nepal faction is afraid of taking decisions?
I don't think senior leader Madhav Nepal is afraid of taking decisions as he is of the opinion that the party should be run as per the rules. And leaders should abide by the party statute, processes and principles.
Either it is Oli or Dahal, both should also follow the rule that is applicable to other members of the party.
What have the second-rung leaders done to ensure party unity?
We have been repeatedly asking concerned leaders to remember what they promised when they were elected to Parliament. Therefore, at this difficult juncture, when the country is facing the pandemic and the challenge of dealing with an encroachment of our territory, we have to be realistic and remember our duty to work in the interest of the country and the people. So our efforts are on to remind them of the situation we are facing today. We have been asking Oli to come to the meetings with an open heart and win over Standing Committee and Central Committee members to inject confidence into the party.
Do you think there is a possibility of forming another task force like the previous meeting?
It will be premature to say anything about another task force. The decisions of the earlier task force have remained unimplemented. Especially, Oli did not show required interest towards implementation of those decisions. So I am not sure if there will be another task force.
If Oli skips Sunday’s meeting, how will the meeting go?
The meeting will convene and hold deliberations on all issues set by the party.
Will it take decisions by majority vote?
I can't say the party will take a decision by tomorrow, but sooner or later, the party will have to make a decision. The party can’t remain in a state of indecision. The first priority is to take necessary decisions at the earliest to end the ongoing confusion in the country and in the party.
With both the factions sticking to their own stance, don’t you think the party is heading towards a split?
Why would anyone split the party? Our party has already decided to follow the principle of people’s democracy until we hold a general convention. During the national congress, we will decide the party’s guiding principle.
And we have a majority government. What will be its fate? If the party splits, neither Oli nor Dahal will have any position. Most importantly, the party rank and file is against any split. And there are clear constitutional provisions on splitting a party or registration of a new party. So, given these conditions, I don't think there is any possibility of a party split.
But the way the party chairs have presented their documents, it looks like remaining together has become untenable. What can help the party unity remain intact?
Communist parties believe in dialectics—debates on issues. We have adopted a democratic system with full freedom to debate. Hence, why should one worry about the documents? Members of the Standing Committee and Central Committees have every right to debate on all the issues. The party committees will take decisions in an appropriate way on the basis of facts. So I don't see any problem with those documents though both chairs have used very strong language and are quite critical of each other. But such things happen when there are differences in any party. But they can be resolved through discussions. That is the process.
How will the party decide on the documents?
The fate of the documents will be decided by the party committee. The committee has every right to accept or reject any proposal or document presented to it. If there is no consensus, then the statute has provisions for a decision based on majority. That is the process.