Ruling Nepal Communist Party on the verge of split?Less than two months after a truce, Oli proposes to Dahal: Let’s part ways.
Tika R Pradhan
So Nepal Communist Party chair KP Sharma Oli has finally spoken his mind. At least leaders of the faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the other chair, say so.
According to leaders close to Dahal, Oli told him during their recent meeting that the party should rather split.
[Read: How the strongest communist force in Nepali history came so close to imploding]
A day after meeting with Oli on Saturday—after a gap of 11 days, Dahal on Sunday held a meeting with five of the nine members of the Secretariat at his residence in Khumaltar.
“Dahal briefed the Secretariat members that Oli told him that he won’t call the Secretariat meeting and that he won’t abide by the party committee decisions,” said Narayan Kaji Shrestha, a Secretariat member and the party spokesperson. “According to Dahal, Oli said that if anyone has any issues, it is better to part ways.”
Apart from Shrestha, Ram Bahadur Thapa, home minister in the Oli Cabinet, party vice-chair Bamdev Gautam and senior leaders Jhala Nath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal were present at the Khumaltar meeting.
The other members in the Secretariat are Oli, Ishwar Pokhrel and Bishnu Poudel, who is also the party general secretary.
Earlier in the day, Poudel had written a meaningful post on Twitter, indicating a serious crisis in the party.
“At this moment, a serious crisis emerged before the unified and integrated existence of the Nepal Communist Party. I would like to request all the leaders, cadres and member comrades to contribute to resolving the internal disputes,” Poudel tweeted. Poudel’s post followed reports that Dahal told leaders close to him that Oli had proposed parting ways instead of dragging on with the existing differences.
Many in the ruling party say that the party was bound to face today’s situation, as conflict had been brewing ever since it was born.
The Nepal Communist Party (NCP) was born out of a merger between Oli’s CPN-UML and Dahal’s CPN (Maoist Centre). However, since both the parties came from two different schools of thought, there were concerns among the party members if the unity would remain intact for long.
Rift, however, had started to surface in the party about a year and a half after the unification announcement.
Political analysts and party insiders had told the Post on more than one occasion that Oli’ brazen arrogance and Dahal’s unfettered ambition coupled with his ever-wavering attitude always kept the party members on their toes.
Before reaching a truce on September 11, Dahal, backed by some senior leaders including Nepal, Khanal and Gautam, had almost brought Oli down to his knees, with as many as 31 Standing Committee members demanding that he resign both as prime minister and party chair.
However, Oli had managed to pull off a coup by dragging Dahal into negotiations and winning over some Secretariat members like Gautam and Thapa. Oli in October even appointed Guatam to the National Assembly.
By September 11, a semblance of peace had returned to the party.
But things started to take a turn for the worse again just after Dashain. Some insiders believe Indian intelligence chief’s visit to Kathmandu and his meeting with Oli on October 21 also contributed to that.
However, the seeds of discord had already been sown long before Dashain by Oli himself after he made some ambassadorial and ministerial appointments. The Dahal faction also believes that a no-confidence motion against Karnali Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi was filed at the behest of Oli.
On Saturday, Dahal had proposed that all issues—no-confidence motion in Karnali, Oli’s meeting with Indian spy chief, Cabinet reshuffle and Covid-19 pandemic—should be settled through a Secretariat meeting.
But Oli does not seem to be interested in holding the Secretariat meeting, according to a Secretariat member.
“But Oli said he would take a serious action if Dahal held a meeting and took any decision,” said the Secretariat member quoting Dahal as being told by Oli. “So it would be better to part ways on a consensus basis.”
Oli’s intentions, according to insiders, have been clear from the very beginning. When Oli introduced an ordinance back in April, aiming to change the provision in the Political Parties Act, there were indications that he would make a move for a party split. The proposed provision said that 40 percent of the members from the Parliamentary Party or Central Committee could decide to split and register a new party. Earlier, a split vote required 40 percent support from both the central committee and the Parliamentary Party.
The ordinance was withdrawn but not before a massive controversy that included allegations of kidnapping and an attempt at a party split.
When in July 2 Oli recommended the prorogation of the bill session of Parliament, there were again concerns among the opposing faction that Oli could re-issue the ordinance. Oli had decided to prorogue the House session after making public statements that the opponent [Dahal] faction and India were trying to unseat him.
Oli by that time, however, managed to garner massive support from a section of the public by taking a stand against India, as his government had issued a new political map of Nepal depicting Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as its parts, which are claimed by India as its own.
Insiders say any move by the opposition faction to unseat Oli could have boomeranged, as it entailed the risk of earning them the tag of anti-nationalists. Then there was a larger power-sharing deal on the table, hence the conflict had ended after a few months, according to them.
Now with the dispute reaching the tipping point once again, the Dahal faction could take an unprecedented move, said a Standing Committee member.
According to the Standing Committee member, Dahal told leaders that Oli now must face a no-confidence motion.
Since the House is in recess, as per constitutional provisions, a special session can be held only if one fourth of the members of the House of Representatives file a petition before the President demanding so.
“Dahal has asked Standing Committee members close to him to be in Kathmandu as soon as possible,” the member told the Post who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Dahal is holding a meeting with some Standing Committee members on Monday to chart out the future strategy.”
In the 44-member Standing Committee, Oli is in minority with just around 14 members, with Dahal and Nepal controlling 17 and 13 members respectively.
In the NCP Parliamentary Party, of the 172 members, 75 to 80 lawmakers are on Oli’s side, with Dahal commanding around 50 and Nepal 40 to 45. Insiders say since the numbers could easily change, leaders will think more than twice before making a move in Parliament.
Since Saturday’s meeting, both the Oli and Dahal factions have been holding internal meetings. Oli too has been consulting with his confidantes including Standing Committee members.
On Sunday, after the news about Dahal’s briefing to Secretariat members came as a bombshell, Barshaman Pun, a Standing Committee member who is energy minister in the Oli Cabinet, and General Secretary Poudel, who was appointed finance minister last month, had reached Khumaltar.
Pun represents the former Maoist party while Poudel is a close confidante of Oli.
An aide to Poudel confirmed his and Pun’s meeting with Dahal, saying they wanted to convince Dahal that the leadership must try to save the party from a split.
Another Standing Committee member who represents the former Maoist party, however, said where the party has arrived today was fated the day it was born.
“I have been saying all along that the party unification was a marriage of convenience,” said Mani Thapa, a Standing Committee member. “Oli wanted to have a two-thirds majority government to rule like a king while Dahal wanted to assert his relevance.”