Karnali row exposes fault lines in Nepal Communist PartyFollowing Dahal’s meeting with Nepal, seven provincial lawmakers from the Nepal faction withdraw their support to the no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Shahi.
The crisis in the ruling Nepal Communist Party may have been averted but the fault lines within have been exposed.
The no-confidence motion that had been filed against Chief Minister of Karnali Province Mahendra Bahadur Shahi on Sunday was scheduled to be discussed and voted on Tuesday but it was not even discussed in the provincial Parliamentary Party.
Party chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal have reached an internal power-sharing deal to foil a coup against Chief Minister Shahi and save his provincial government.
The Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has 33 seats in the 40-member provincial assembly. Of the 18 members who registered the no-confidence motion against Shahi, 15 represent the former CPN-UML and three the former Maoist party.
Seven of the 15 belong to the Nepal faction and they withdrew their support to the no-confidence motion, according to a Standing Committee member close to Nepal.
“Despite the truce on Tuesday, party leaders say the possibility of such a scenario in other provinces remains,” said party Standing Committee member Surendra Pandey. “A lot of other issues are also coming to the fore.”
After months of wrangling within the party, differences had been patched up in August with an understanding between Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and the other chair Dahal that there would be a Cabinet reshuffle and the top leaders like Nepal would have a say in making appointments. But the Karnali incident has shown that all is not well within.
“It is not known whether Yamlal Kandel solely initiated the plan to unseat the chief minister or he was acting on someone's directive,” Pandey, a confidant of Nepal, said.
The no-confidence motion against Shahi was led by Kandel who belongs to the Oli faction and has harboured chief ministerial ambitions.
“This particular incident has shocked former Maoists and it may repeat in Sudurpaschim Province,” Pandey, who was one of the six members of a task force that came up with a plan to resolve the differences in the party, said. “This needs to end once and for all, otherwise we will face similar disputes in other provinces too.”
A former Maoist leader is the chief minister in Sudurpaschim Province.
In the 2017 elections, the alliance of the CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) won in six of the seven provinces and the former formed governments in four of them while the Maoists formed in two.
The two parties united to form the Nepal Communist Party (NPC) in May 2018.
But differences between the two factions have remained and a faction within the erstwhile UML, led by Nepal, has often sided with Dahal—the leader of the Maoists.
It was once again the coming together of these two sides that has saved Chief Minister Shahi’s position.
According to a member of Dahal’s secretariat, former Maoists and leaders close to Nepal reached a power-sharing deal on Tuesday morning.
Then, as a face-saving exercise, Prime Minister Oli instructed deputy Parliamentary Party leader Subas Nembang to reach out to leaders in Karnali and defuse the tension.
“I must say the dispute in Karnali is near its end but has not fully settled yet,” Nembang said.
Prime Minister Oli and Dahal have asked Chief Minister Shahi, Kandel, provincial in-charge of the party Janardan Sharma, NCP Karnali province chair Gorakh Bahadur Bogati and secretary Maya Prasad Sharma and some senior party leaders and ministers to come to Kathmandu for talks on Thursday.
The deal between Shahi and the Nepal faction is to reshuffle the cabinet where three provincial lawmakers from the Nepal camp will get ministerial berths in place of three ministers close to Prime Minister Oli, according to a Standing Committee member close to Nepal who did not want to be identified.
Three provincial lawmakers Chandra Bahadur Shahi, Karbir Shahi and Amar Bahadur Thapa will be appointed ministers, as per the deal between Shahi and Nepal and two provincial ministers close to PM Oli, Dal Bahadur Rawal and Nanda Singh Buda will be removed, according to him.
One ministerial seat is already vacant.
Besides inducting three ministers in the cabinet, Shahi has also given words to two more lawmakers from the Nepal faction that they will be appointed deputy speaker and chief whip of the party, according to the Standing Committee member.
Khagendra Prasai, an associate professor of political science at Nepal Open University who follows left politics closely, said that the ongoing friction in Karnali is the result of power struggles that manifests in different forms.
Dahal on Monday had sent the party’s central committee member Niraj Acharya to Surkhet to extend support to Shahi and hold talks with seven provincial lawmakers close to the Nepal faction.
After lawmakers from the former Maoist and Nepal camps reached a political understanding, Kandel’s, who had initiated the no-confidence motion, proposal died, a standing committee member close to the Nepal faction, told the Post.
Dahal’s secretariat termed the entire Karnali episode an anti-political activity.
Ganga Dahal, a member of Dahal’s secretariat, who is also a daughter of the former prime minister, wrote on Facebook on Monday, “An anti-political activity in Karnali Province has finally failed,” referring to the withdrawal of the no-confidence proposal.
Party chair Dahal had reached out to Prime Minister Oli on Sunday and also held discussion with senior leader Nepal.
“This episode has come to be a setback for Prime Minister Oli,” a member of the party’s Standing Committee said. “That is what Oli quickly realised and mobilised Nembang to manage possible damage control.”
“There was dissatisfaction against Shahi ever since he was elected the chief minister but now the discontent has widened,” Prasai said. “The process of picking the leadership in the province demands a thorough vetting process.”
“If the current dispute in Karnali Province is not settled by the party system, it will cause sparks in other regions too.”