What does Oli mean by ‘big action’?It may indeed mean some drastic moves. But since he often employs such tactics, as is his wont, it may also mean nothing but just a ploy to threaten his opponents, insiders say.
Tika R Pradhan
Despite being pressured and cornered, Nepal Communist Party chair KP Sharma Oli, also the prime minister, has refused to relent. Instead, according to insiders, when the other chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal pressed him for party meetings, he said in response that meetings are not required and even if any decision is taken against him, he would rather make a counter move–that he will take a “big action.”
Since its formation, there have been three factions in the Nepal Commuinist Party and they aligned so precariously that any of the two coming closer puts the third in the minority. Currently, the factions led by Dahal and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal are together. Even then, Oli has not stopped threatening to split the party.
Oli knows very well that for him, the utility of Dahal is over now, according to a Standing Committee member close to Nepal.
“Oli is now using coercive tactics to make Dahal fall in line,” the member who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Post. “Since he is in power, he leads the government and he controls the state machinery, Oli feels emboldened.”
Party leaders could not provide a clear answer to what Oli’s “big action” means, but many of them say he seems to have an ace or two up his sleeve. That’s why he is using such a threatening tone, according to them.
“I don’t know what Oli meant by big action,” said Jhalanath Khanal, a senior leader. “But that won’t matter as the party will take collective decisions soon.”
Even after Oli’s blunt response to Dahal, asking him “to do what he can” or “make the party committees take any decision through the majority”, the latter seems to be trying to take a reconciliatory approach.
Insiders say it has become apparent that Dahal may not make any drastic move even if Oli takes the nasty step towards party split.
Leaders close to Dahal have already started pressing for dialogue, fearing “big action” from Oli.
What “big action” Oli is talking about then? What is the threat that hangs over Dahal like the sword of Damocles?
Despite the fact that odds were stacked against Oli–he was in the minority in all party committees and calls for his resignation were growing bigger and louder–Dahal just a couple months ago had stopped short of pulling the trigger.
Analysts and insiders say they don’t see any drastic move from Dahal anytime soon, as he tends to vacillate a lot, as is his wont. But more than that, according to them, Oli is not someone who easily lays all his cards on the table.
A leader said if push comes to shove, Oli will not hesitate to take some decisions that may be even improper.
Since Parliament is in recess, Oli could introduce an ordinance to change the provision for registration of a new party. An ordinance to the same effect Oli had introduced back in April, but he was forced to withdraw it after massive criticism.
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. The current provision says a split vote required 40 percent support from both the central committee “and” the Parliamentary Party.
The opponent faction has feared Oli could bring such an ordinance ever since he suddenly decided to prorogue the House session in July.
But many wonder if Oli is planning to make even a bigger move than that.
After failing to force Oli to capitulate when even as many as 31 of the 44 Standing Committee members had demanded his resignation, the Dahal-Nepal faction may this time around take the parliamentary recourse. It, however, is a long process. Since Parliament is in recess, as per constitutional provisions, a special session can be called if one-fourth of the Members of Parliament file a petition for the same. Parliament is a place from where the prime minister is elected or removed.
But insiders say the “big action” Oli is talking about could be dissolving the House, even though there is no provision for the same in the constitution.
“During his meeting with Oli, Dahal had even expressed concerns whether the existing [political] system would collapse,” said Pampha Bhusal, a Standing Committee member close to Dahal. “He was worried things are not heading towards a positive direction.”
Insiders say even if that move is far-fetched, Oli can always use the threat of it against his opponents in the party.
“Most of the decisions [of September 11 that saved the party split] had been in Oli’s favour. He, however, continued to display his authoritative streak and employed different tactics to keep his opponents in check,” said Mani Thapa, a Standing Committee member. “Party split almost immediately is unlikely and none of the leaders wants that, as they know the consequences.”
According to Thapa, in the event of a split, they will have less leverage to remain in power.
“Oli has no other option than to abide by party decisions and the other factions know a split would not serve them well,” Thapa told the Post. “A larger power-sharing deal giving space to the Dahal and Nepal factions could save the party from split for now.”
Thakur Gaire, a Central Committee member, also said that the current situation will continue for some time until the leaders reach a deal. “I don’t think anyone will dare to split the party anytime soon,” Gaire told the Post.
Leaders close to Oli, however, have blamed Dahal for bringing the party to the current situation, as they say Dahal did not let Oli run the government properly.
In a Facebook Post on Monday, Ishwar Pokhrel, lashed out at Dahal, though he stopped short of naming him.
“The party is faced with a possible split after some leaders have gone against the agreement reached during the unification and are trying to play the games of alliances on the basis of their affiliation with former groups,” Pokhrel wrote. “Everyone should identify and warn those who have invited such misfortune. Let’s protect the party unity by objecting to those who are doing this for personal interests.”
Analysts say though the Nepal Communist Party appears to be on the verge of split, what is ongoing in the party is the game of one-upmanship.
“Oli has emerged as a master tactician. He is once again employing his tactics to threaten leaders,” said Shyam Shrestha, a political commentator who has followed Nepal’s leftist politics for decades. “He excels in the use-and-throw technique, which he has employed against almost all former UML leaders and now he is deploying it against former Maoist leaders.”
He said Oli had a historic opportunity to become a national hero by taking along all the leaders of his party. But he has become a leader of a small coterie, he said.
“He knows that Madhav Nepal and Dahal would come to him again if he threatens them with splitting the party,” Shrestha told the Post. “Oli is basically afraid of the Central Committee which could take a decision to unseat him both as the prime minister and the party chair.”