In ruling party, leaders are questioning Oli’s ‘unilateral’ decisionsWhen the government signed a deal with Free Madhes campaigner CK Raut at the City Hall on Friday, most of the leaders of the ruling communist party were in the dark about the development.
Tika R Pradhan
When the government signed a deal with Free Madhes campaigner CK Raut at the City Hall on Friday, most of the leaders of the ruling communist party were in the dark about the development.
Later it was revealed that the deal was reached at Baluwatar on Thursday night, hours after the Supreme Court ordered the release of Raut who had been in jail for the last five months.
Even members of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Secretariat, who were called for a “briefing”, had objected to the way the deal was signed. According to party insiders, they were “briefed” on the agreement but they were “not consulted” before its signing.
“We had questioned the leadership at that time saying there was no point informing [us] about a deal which had already been signed [with CK Raut],” Narayan Kaji Shrestha, spokesperson for the ruling party, told the Post.
Party insiders say this was one of the many decisions Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has been taking “unilaterally” of late.
Many even wondered whether Oli was following the footsteps of Pushpa Kamal Dahal while making decisions.
Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) and Dahal’s Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) announced their formal merger in May last year to form the NCP. The two communist parties, nonetheless, come from different schools of thought.
The former UML was largely an organised party which chose its leadership, including the chairman, through voting and decisions were made after several layers of consultation. The former Maoist party, on the other hand, had been led by Dahal for almost three decades—unchallenged—and Dahal would reign supreme, almost always.
“In the Maoist party earlier, there were bigger committees and decision making used to be difficult and time-consuming. Chairman Dahal, therefore, used to be authorised to take decisions; leaders would come to know only later,” said Bishnu Rijal, a Central Committee member of the ruling party. “It looks like a similar culture has permeated in our party and that is reflected in most of the decisions of Oli now,” he added.
In Dahal’s Maoist party, there was a time when the Central Committee meeting was not called for three years. In 2012, the party suffered a split when Mohan Baidya walked away.
“It has been more than 10 months since the party merger, but the leadership is yet to call a meeting of the Central Committee,” Rijal told the Post.
Ruling party leaders claimed that the deal with Raut was the latest case of “unilateral decision” on the part of Oli and that even Dahal was “informed” about the March 8 deal, which was the outcome of months-long negotiations, only a day before.
Another Central Committee member said Oli, after becoming the prime minister, has been increasingly centralising power.
“He feels emboldened. First, he managed to portray himself as a ‘nationalist’ leader especially after the Indian blockade. Second, he knows very well that Dahal’s party was never institutionalised,” the leader told the Post on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.
Leaders also recounted the Oli Cabinet’s decision to recommend Neel Kantha Uprety as the ambassador to India in June last year. “Forget others, even Dahal had no inkling of that decision,” a leader, who represents the former UML, claimed. Oli, however, backtracked after criticism from several quarters.
Leaders also recalled the decision of recommending the chairpersons of the five constitutional commissions, which they say was made in Baluwatar without discussing the agenda in the party.
Senior leaders in the ruling party, who come from the UML, have expressed their dissatisfaction time and again at the way decisions were being taken in Baluwatar, bypassing Dhumbarahi, the party headquarters.
On Wednesday, a day after the government said it would ban the activities of the Communist Party of Nepal, led by Netra Bikram Chand, Madhav Kumar Nepal, a former prime minister and senior leader of the ruling party, told journalists that the issue was not discussed in the party. Later in the day, Nepal, along with Jhala Nath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam and party Spokesman Shrestha met at Dahal’s Khumaltar-based residence and expressed serious concerns over the latest decisions of the Oli administration.
A Standing Committee member, who comes from the former Maoist party, said the decision-making process was discussed during the concluding session of the Standing Committee meeting in December last week.
“Both Oli and Dahal had promised to correct the ways decisions were being made after most of the members raised the issue,” said Mani Thapa, a Standing Committee member. “But we have not seen any changes.”
Even after the merger of the two communist forces, the factions of the former UML are still active, and they have repeatedly questioned Oli’s tendency to keep them at bay.
Senior leader Nepal, who has long spoken of Oli’s unilateral way of running the party, organised a tea reception on September 29 last year for the party's Standing Committee members when both the chairpersons were abroad, and urged them to speak out.
“The party now seems to be on a slippery slope; Baluwatar does not bother to consult anyone while taking decisions, especially the important ones,” said Ghanashyam Bhusal, a Standing Committee member, who speaks for setting up a proper system in the party.
Ruling party leaders said discussions and consultations play an important role in any party’s democratisation process, but the NCP seems to be ignoring these facts.
“Such practice of unilateral decisions could gradually de-institutionalise the party system. At a time when we need to work to strengthen internal democracy, we are going in the opposite direction,” said Rijal.
When asked, Oli’s press adviser said the prime minister was fulfilling the assignment as per the “party’s policies and declarations”.
“Discussions are not possible on each and every issue, and party leaders must not dictate him [Oli],” Kundan Aryal told the Post. “It’s not that the prime minister does not hold discussions at all. He has been discussing quite a lot of issues in the party.”