Ruling party’s headaches bound to multiply even after Secretariat’s meetingRegardless of who gets picked to lead the School Department, NCP is awaiting bigger tussles, insiders say.
As the much-awaited Secretariat meeting of the Nepal Communist Party approaches, party positions will be filled but there is little hope for respite from the ongoing internal scrimmage.
The meeting, scheduled for Thursday, is likely to reach consensus on filling up several party departments, which will finally complete unification between the two former parties—CPN-UML and the Maoists. But one party department remains hotly contested and no matter who is appointed, there will be discontent, leading to even more divisions within the ruling party, insiders told the Post.
The party’s School Department, which is responsible for propagating the party’s ideology to the grassroots, has four senior leaders in the running. Two rival party factions, led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, are pushing their own choices, even as two others are contesting their own way.
Dahal, who leads the former Maoists, had initially pushed for party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha to lead the School Department, but Shrestha was roundly rejected by former UML leaders. Dahal then forwarded Jhalanath Khanal’s name.
The former Maoists are demanding the School Department because the UML camp has all other important departments—foreign, organisation, and finance.
“If we are claiming one important department, why is there such a strong reservation and why is the prime minister holding separate meetings and lobbying?” said a former Maoist leader who only agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. “We are claiming the School Department because we do not have any important department to lead.”
If the former UML leaders continue to claim the School Department, the rift between the two rival factions could further widen, the former Maoist leader warned.
On the other hand, the Oli faction, consisting of the former UML leaders, wants Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel for the post.
Oli had even called a meeting of former UML leaders at Baluwatar on Wednesday to seek support for Pokhrel. Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam, Pokhrel and party Secretary Bishnu Poudel were present at the meeting where they agreed to put forward Pokhrel to lead the School Department. Though Khanal too agreed on Pokhrel, he’s been named by Dahal. Many believe the two have close relations.
But for the former Maoists, the first choice remains Shrestha.
“Shrestha is not in the government while Pokhrel is the deputy prime minister. So the School Department should be given to Shrestha,” said the former Maoist leader.
Another leader who has now entered the running is Ghanshyam Bhusal, who has the support of a number of youth leaders within the party.
Expressing displeasure over the ongoing controversy, Yogesh Bhattarai, one of the leaders, provided five suggestions to the party leadership through his Facebook page.
“If we are assigning responsibility to anyone, it should be based on their qualifications, capability and interest, and it should not be a permanent one. Each responsibility should be changed every year. There are geographies, departments and sectors in the party where leaders can work, but their responsibility should be rotated,” Bhattarai wrote.
Thursday’s Secretariat meeting will most likely complete party unification, with a Cabinet reshuffle in the works, which is certain to lead to another melee round. A meeting of the Central Committee, which has not convened for the past year, is likely to see a strong opposition as Dahal will raise the issue of ‘one man-one post’ and the gentlemen’s agreement reached between Oli and him during the party merger in February 2018.
“First, we have to complete the remaining tasks of party unification. Then, a review of the government’s performance will begin. The gentleman’s agreement will be discussed later,” said Agni Sapkota, a leader from Dahal’s camp.
But others believe the gentleman’s agreement need not figure in any discussion.
“That agreement took place when the two parties had their own separate existence. Now, we are one party so Dahal should backtrack,” said Surya Thapa, a central committee member. “The Maoists have 29 percent of the vote, compared with the UML. Dahal holding separate meetings will not help party unification.”
Party insiders don’t see any respite from the ongoing confrontation in the ruling party. In fact, they believe that things are likely to escalate after someone is chosen to lead the School Department.
“I see a lot of tussles awaiting the ruling party,” said party leader Hari Roka. “Ups and downs are natural phenomena for any political party but the way issues are unfolding, there isn’t going to be any relief.”
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