Amid political uncertainty, Dahal-Nepal faction seems to be completely lostWhile Oli’s party appears confident about polls and forces like Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party are weighing their options, the Dahal-Nepal camp is groping in the dark.
Ever since Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20, he appears to be confident that elections will take place on the dates he has declared–April 30 and May 10. He has been making statements to that effect at every opportunity, disregarding the fact that his House dissolution move is being heard by the Supreme Court.
As an impact of his House dissolution decision, the Nepal Communist Party has split in two–one led by him and the other by Puspha Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal.
The Dahal-Nepal faction has declared a war on Oli and has taken to the streets, calling for restoration of the House.
The other two major parties–the Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party–though they have opposed the House dissolution move, have also been weighing their options in the event of polls.
Observers say the Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party appear to have their strategies ready for both the outcomes–if the House is restored or the polls take place–but when it comes to the Dahal-Nepal faction, it seems to be disoriented.
Ever since the Dahal-Nepal faction took to the streets, the two as well as other leaders have launched vitriolic attacks on Oli. While calling Oli an autocratic leader, the faction has opposed his House dissolution move as unconstitutional and undemocratic. But none of the leaders–not even Dahal and Nepal who have been waxing eloquent on each other of late–has tried to convince the people why they should come out to the streets to protest against Oli’s move and what makes them better than Oli.
According to Narayan Dhakal, a communist leader-turned writer, the Dahal-Nepal faction wants to establish that the House will be restored and elections won’t happen. It looks like the Dahal-Nepal faction’s understanding is that Oli will be automatically sidelined once the House is restored.
Even though the Nepal Communist Party has split for all practical purposes, legally it is still one and whether there are two parties–one led by Oli and the other by Dahal and Nepal–will be decided by the Election Commission.
While both factions want to be the Nepal Communist Party, they also want to stake claim to the sun as the election symbol.
“For Dahal, having the sun as the election symbol may not matter much, but it holds a lot of significance for leaders like Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal and others who have for years contested elections with that symbol,” said Dhakal. “So as they wait for the Election Commission decision, they want to continue their agitation.”
With the Congress refusing the Dahal-Nepal faction’s request for a joint protest, their street movement has not been as effective.
And every time its leaders take to the stage, they resort to verbal attacks on Oli, rather than trying to justify why their struggle is aimed at establishing rule of law, protecting the constitution and strengthening constitutionalism.
Observers say Oli’s move is facing criticism from the media and civil society as well, but it will be wrong if the Dahal-Nepal faction is thinking that it has the backing of the media and civil society.
Calls of late have grown that the House dissolution move is unconstitutional, hence the Supreme Court must restore it. Lawyers presenting their views at the ongoing hearing have strongly argued why Oli has taken an unconstitutional decision.
But since the Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of the constitution, it will decide whether to uphold Oli’s House dissolution move or restore the House.
The Dahal-Nepal faction on January 11 reached out to the Election Commission, asking it to halt all election activities.
But what if the House is not restored and the country goes to the polls? Will it participate in the election or boycott it?
Party leaders failed to provide answers.
Narayan Kaji Shrestha, spokesperson for the Nepal Communist Party (Dahal-Nepal faction), said that they have just two strategies now–first, make a push for a stronger agitation and second, the next step after the House restoration.
“Elections will happen after two years, not now. So elections declared by Oli are not our priority,” Shrestha told the Post. “We are very much in agitation. Some small sections inside the Nepali Congress led by Sher Bahadur Deuba and Janata Samajbadi Party are not interested to join hands with us. Otherwise, we have enormous support from the parties and the public.”
Congress President Deuba so far has maintained that since the House dissolution decision is being dealt with by the court, the party should wait for its verdict while continuing the protests.
Many believe Deuba is seeing an opportunity for himself in both the cases–if the House is restored or elections take place.
Shrestha said once the House is restored, his faction will form an alliance with the Nepali Congress and either Dahal or Deuba will become prime minister.
But the Nepali Congress still fears that in the event of House restoration, the two factions can once again come together. So the party is also considering if it could align with Oli.
A leader close to Deuba admitted that there are offers from both the communist factions. “But too early to say anything now,” the leader told the Post.
The Janata Samajbadi Party too has its own strategy–join the coalition if the House is restored and if not, prepare for elections.
“We have arrived at this situation because the constitution has lots of holes in it. Now that the Oli has already made a mistake by dissolving the House, we have to wait for the court verdict,” said Rajendra Mahato, a leader of the Janata Samajbadi Party. “If the House is restored, it will mean Oli’s wrong move has been corrected.”
According to Mahato, if the House is not restored, there is no point in objecting to the polls.
“Even if the House is continued, we will be holding elections in around a year and a half,” said Mahato. “Our concerns will also be yet another important point that no one is talking about–the House is not restored and elections don’t happen on the declared dates.”
According to Mahato, in case the Supreme Court upholds the House dissolution move but the polls fail to take place on April 30 and May 10, the country will plunge into a cycle of uncertainty.
If elections happen, both Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party see an opportunity to increase their seats, as the Nepal Communist Party has been divided.
The Dahal-Nepal faction, however, does not seem to have imagined a situation of the House not getting restored.
“We firmly believe that elections will not take place, so why should we bother about something which is not going to happen?” said Ghanshyam Bhusal, a leader of the Nepal Communist Party (Dahal-Nepal faction). “We have been calling for the restoration of the House. If we start preparing for the elections which have been declared after unconstitutionally dissolving the House, our whole movement will be affected.”