Nepali politics is becoming devoid of principles, ethics and ideologiesBeneath the veneer of their high-sounding claims of fighting for the system and democratic norms and values lies politicians’ insatiable desire to attain power and control.
Tika R Pradhan
A Parliamentary Party meeting of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) on March 16 decided to demand Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s resignation.
The Maoist Centre, which had merged with the CPN-UML, was revived by the Supreme Court on March 7 after a divisional bench of justices scrapped the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). The party was born out of a merger between the UML and the Maoist Centre in May 2018.
“Prime Minister Oli must resign on moral grounds since the Supreme Court overturned his decision to dissolve the House of Representatives,” Barshaman Pun, a Maoist lawmaker, told the media after the March 16 Parliamentary Party meeting of his party. “The meeting has decided to demand his resignation.”
With the revival of the UML, senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal, a former prime minister, was left with no option than to return to his mother party.
Now a conflict is brewing in the UML, with Oli consolidating power in a bid to drive Nepal and some leaders into a corner.
Oli has been constantly challenging his opponents to come up with a no-confidence motion if they can.
The Maoist Centre, which currently has 49 members (four are with Oli) in the House, however, is saying that withdrawing support to Oli will allow him one whole month, as he has to seek a vote of confidence within 30 days. Maoist Centre leaders fear if Oli manages to rope in even the Janata Samajbadi Party, which currently has 32 seats in Parliament, he will survive, thereby leaving them scrambling.
“We don’t want to be the cause of instability as we have been fighting for stability for so long,” said Haribol Gajurel, a Standing Committee member and lawmaker of the Maoist Centre. “We have not decided to withdraw support to Oli as such a move without ensuring an alternative government could lead to political instability.”
The other way Oli will have to capitulate is that the Nepal faction takes a bold decision to defect, at the cost of losing their lawmakers’ post. There are around 40 lawmakers from the Nepal faction and Oli controls around 80 lawmakers.
The UML had won 121 seats in the 2017 elections.
The Nepal faction leaders and lawmakers, however, are hesitant to make a move.
Political analysts say the way Maoist chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal had upped the rhetoric against Oli after the House dissolution, he should have by now withdrawn support to the government. And Nepal, who had sided with Dahal to force Oli to resign, should have taken a bold political move, according to them.
Shyam Shrestha, a political commentator who has followed Nepal’s leftist politics for decades, says the recent turn of events has once again exposed that Nepali politicians don’t believe in ethical politics.
“It looked like both Dahal and Nepal were fighting for the system, procedure, ideology and principles when Oli dissolved the House,” Shrestha told the Post. “But it has now become apparent that it was just rhetoric; their interest was in their personal and political gains.”
When the Supreme Court on February 23 overturned Oli’s House dissolution decision calling it unconstitutional, it asked authorities to call a meeting of the House within 13 days. Accordingly, the House meeting was called for March 7. Over the last two weeks, the House has been without a business.
Among the public, the understanding was those who were demanding Oli’s resignation would use the Parliament to make him step down.
But neither Dahal nor Nepal has shown any signs of doing so.
Political observers say while Oli faces moral questions for failing to step down despite the court overturning his House dissolution decision, the Nepal faction as well as the Maoist Centre too face similar questions.
“It seems that Maoist leaders’ claim that they were not fighting for power and position but for the system is just an eyewash,” said Uddhab Pyakurel, a political analyst who writes for the Post’s sister paper Kantipur. “If they were actually fighting against Oli’s regressive move, what has stopped them from withdrawing its support?”
Now that Oli is initiating action against Nepal and other leaders of this party, he seems to be vindicated, as at one point of time Nepal backed Dahal in making every attempt to topple Oli.
According to Lokraj Baral, a professor of political science at Tribhuvan University, Nepali politicians rarely practice what they preach and for them, it is all about power.
“Instead of withdrawing support to the government, the Maoist Centre and other parties in the opposition are bargaining for power,” Baral told the Post. “Ethical politics and procedures are not in the dictionary of Nepali politicians. Even Sher Bahadur Deuba has continued the post of party president despite the Nepali Congress facing a drubbing in the last elections.”
The Congress party which currently controls 61 seats in Parliament holds the key in the new political equations. But Deuba has maintained silence, leaving everyone flabbergasted. The faction led by senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel, however, has been pressing Deuba to take the lead to unseat Oli.
A meeting of the office bearers of the Nepali Congress on Monday concluded that time is not ripe yet for the party to lead the government.
“The party is ready to lead the government but the situation is not favourable yet,” Ramesh Lekhak told the Post on Monday evening after the Congress meeting. “We will make a decision when we think it’s the right time to do so.”
Deuba faces charges within his own party of having some kind of secret understanding with Oli on issues ranging from appointments to early elections. But many in the Nepali Congress believe that in the 2017 elections, people gave the party the mandate to stay in opposition so it should abide by the people’s verdict.
Nonetheless, the political problem the country faces today is not because of the Congress but because of the communists who were initially UML and Maoist Centre and then the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) before returning to their old state, analysts say.
CK Lal, a political commentator and columnist for the Post, says it will be wrong to paint all Nepali politicians with the same brush, as the country has seen some leaders who are remembered for their integrity.
“The problem with communists is they believe everything lies in power,” Lal told the Post. “They can go to any extent to gain power.”
According to Lal, Dahal and Nepal had nothing to do with the system, procedure, principles, ethics or ideology when they upped their ante against Oli, even though the latter was equally wrong in his actions.
“After Oli refused to give what he had promised, they wanted to exert pressure on him,” said Lal.
Even as the House has been reinstated, politics continues to remain deadlocked now. While Oli is trying to run his party, the UML, with an iron fist, the vacillations of his opponents, particularly Dahal and Nepal, have given him more power and strength.
“Political parties have failed democracy. Their struggles have no sense if they fail to institutionalise democratic gains. I don’t see that to happen [sic],” Baral, the professor, wrote on Twitter on March 18.
Baral told the Post earlier this week that people now are losing hopes of ethical politics from Nepali politicians.
“They [Dahal and Nepal] could neither show maturity nor come up with any strategy as they lacked the principle,” said Baral. “Due to the dilemma of the opposition leaders, Oli’s one-man show seems to continue.”
(Anil Giri contributed reporting.)