Oli, Dahal headed for a truce, but factional feud is unlikely to endEven if the two leaders make concessions for now, power exercise will continue in the party, insiders say.
Over the last two years, the Nepal Communist Party, born out of the merger between the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre), has been struggling to become a united force in a true sense, as various senior leaders have their own factions that are always after each other’s throat.
The latest in the series, however, culminated in the direct confrontation between two chairmen KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal over Bamdev Gautam.
Oli, who is also the prime minister, has warned that he will nix the Dahal camp’s plan to take Gautam, the party vice-chair, to the National Assembly. The Dahal faction has been saying that Oli is under an obligation to abide by the party Secretariat decision.
Leaders, however, said a “win-win” deal is being worked out and that it will settle the ongoing disputes.
“The ongoing disputes in the party are not as big as they have been portrayed,” said Surendra Pandey, a Standing Committee member. “The party will find a middle path.”
According to insiders, Oli is likely to make a concession, as he is bound to accept the party Secretariat’s decision. On the other hand, the Dahal camp is likely to agree with Oli’s plan to continue Yubaraj Khatiwada as the finance minister.
The Dahal camp’s push for Gautam in the National Assembly is for replacing Khatiwada whose term is ending on March 3.
The picture will be clearer after March 4, as Oli is yet to accept the “win-win” formula floated by senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal.
“Oli has no other option than to comply with the party’s decision,” said Bishnu Rijal, a Central Committee member, who has close relations with senior party leader Madhav Kumar Nepal. “Oli has a tendency to stretch things till the last moment. Last time also Oli relented at the last moment when he was negotiating with Dahal over the Speaker’s post.”
Party leaders, however, agree that top leadership should find a lasting solution to end the factional feud in the party. They said they are not sure a compromise on the ongoing issue will end factionalism in the party.
Ram Karki, a central member, said factionalism has been prevalent in the party ever since it was born two years ago.
“But unlike in the communist parties, where debates, discussions and disagreements are based on ideological issues, the current fight in our party stems from leaders’ personal interests,” Karki, a former minister, told the Post. “Since the ongoing struggle is more focused on personal ambitions, conflict will escalate further, which will damage the party.”
Despite factional fights, Oli, until a few months ago, appeared to be in a comfortable position, commanding the party and the government.
When Gautam entered the scene, Dahal latched on to the opportunity to turn the tables.
As Oli does not seem to be in the mood to relent so easily, analysts say even if the Gautam episode ends in a compromise, the power struggle will continue.
“This is nothing but power exercise,” said Jhalak Subedi, a political commentator who has followed leftists politics for decades. “If Oli had managed things properly, everything would have been in place. This also shows his failure.”
According to Subedi, if Oli agrees to make a compromise, things will settle in the ruling party, at least for the time being.
The truce formula that the ruling party is working on is Khatiwada will present the fiscal budget on May 29, and Gautam will become a National Assembly member. An earlier plan to amend the constitution to pave the way for a National Assembly member to become prime minister has been aborted for now. But exercises are ongoing to amend the constitution to increase the number of members in the National Assembly.
Currently, there are 59 members in the National Assembly—56 are elected from seven provinces and three are nominated by the President at the recommendation of the government.
The leaders might agree on increasing the number of members in the National Assembly so as to accommodate both Gautam and Khatiwada.
“It looks like the ruling party leaders are trying to find an amicable solution to the recent disputes,” said Subedi. “But this is unlikely to mend the rift. Even if they compromise on power-sharing, it will be a temporary truce. The factional feud is likely to continue until the general convention.”
A sitting minister, who did not wish to be named, said the recent hullabaloo will subside in a day or two as leaders know how they can fulfil their interests.
“The fight is not in the larger interest of the party, people or the country,” he said. “The fight is to exercise more influence in the party and as long as they can accommodate each other for their ambitions, they will find a resolution to the ongoing dispute.”