Oli’s move of dissolving the House has brought Nepal Communist Party to a moment of truthThe party has, in effect, split. It’s just a matter of time when a formal announcement is made, insiders say.
In effect, the Nepal Communist Party has split now. A formal announcement is not if but when.
The two factions led by chairs KP Sharma Oli, also the prime minister, and Pushpa Kamal Dahal are now busy making strategies to wrest control of the party. While the faction led by Dahal has called a Central Committee meeting on Tuesday, the Oli faction has done the same–on the same day. A Standing Committee meeting by the Dahal faction on Sunday proposed disciplinary action against Oli while a meeting of the Oli faction on Monday not only rejected it but demanded action against the rival factions.
Oli has tried to justify his action of dissolving the House of Representatives, saying the opponent faction not only created hindrance in his functioning but also made attempts to unseat him. The Dahal faction has said Oli took an unconstitutional move to dissolve the House.
With the government’s House dissolution move already with the Supreme Court, both factions are now in a bid to conserve energy for the showdown. Nonetheless, none wants to be seen as the cause for the split.
“The prime minister said at today’s meeting that he had to take the drastic step of dissolving the House because some party leaders were preparing to move a no-confidence motion against him,” Nirudevi Pal, a lawmaker close to Oli, told reporters after the Oli faction’s meeting at Baluwatar on Monday morning. “They were also in a bid to impeach the President.”
Later in the afternoon, as many as 90 lawmakers and some 24 members of the Upper House from the Dahal faction gathered at the parliament building in Baneshwor to discuss Oli's decision to dissolve the House.
During the meeting the leaders discussed ways to revive the House.
The meeting has decided to reject the unconstitutional move of the party chairman Oli and President Bidya Devi Bhandari and demand the revival of Parliament.
Given the rapid developments over the past few days which culminated in the House dissolution on Sunday, the Dahal faction, which has some former senior CPN-UML leaders like Madhav Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal, is left with limited options.
They can fight a legal battle in the court to reinstate the House, but if the ultimate arbiter of the constitution upholds the government’s decision, they will have no other option than to participate in polls, set for April 3o and May 10–if they happen.
“If the House is not restored, we will have no alternative than to prepare for the polls,” said Surendra Pandey, a Standing Committee member who is with the Dahal-Nepal faction. “It’s not that anyone is afraid to go to the polls for a fresh mandate… the question is whether snap polls are necessary. The question is also whether the government decision to dissolve the House is constitutional.”
Though Dahal on Monday morning said in a statement that one person’s undemocratic move will not affect the party unity, it has become apparent that there is no way the two factions can remain under the same roof.
Leaders from the Dahal faction later on Monday joined a meeting of the Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party to discuss Oli’s move of House dissolution.
“We three parties are against the unconstitutional and undemocratic moves by prime minister Oli and constant attacks on the constitution,” Narayan Kaji Shrestha, spokesperson for the Nepal Communist Party who is with the Dahal faction, told reporters after the meeting held at Congress headquarters in Sanepa. “After taking the mandate from central committees of all three parties, we will take necessary decisions.”
Shrestha did not elaborate.
According to a press statement issued by Nepali Congress following the meeting, all three parties have the same view on the prime minister’s act of House dissolution, that it is unconstitutional and undemocratic and all three parties have agreed to protest the move.
“All three parties have agreed to discuss and decide from their respective central committee meetings to devise further programmes,” reads the second decision of the statement on the all party meeting.
A meeting of the members of the central executive committee of Janata Samajbadi Party held on Monday decided to hold demonstrations against Oli’s unconstitutional and undemocratic move on Wednesday at all the district headquarters and has called its Central Working Committee meeting on Tuesday to devise further strategy.
Meanwhile, the Dahal faction on Monday afternoon notified the Election Commission of Sunday’s Standing Committee decision about initiating action against Oli. The party has concluded that Oli’s move was unconstitutional, undemocratic, autocratic, regressive and against the people’s mandate.
The Standing Committee has decided to propose the Central Committee meeting for a disciplinary action against the party chairman Oli.
“It became imperative for us to inform the Election Commision about the party’s Standing Committee decision meeting,” said Lilamani Pokhrel, a Standing Committee member. “Of the 44 Standing Committee members, 29 agree that Oli deserved a disciplinary action.”
Insiders say no matter how much leaders talk about saving unity, everyone, in essence, knows that things are beyond repair. It will take some time before the court decides on Oli’s move. But in either case–if it reinstates or endorses the House dissolution–the party is not going to remain intact, according to them.
In an interview with Kantipur, Pradip Gyawali, a Standing Committee member and foreign minister in the Oli Cabinet, said that the party had already split on December 16 when the majority of the lawmakers went to the President's office with a petition to call a special session of Parliament.
Insiders say just the formality remains now. The Oli faction has called the party's Central Committee meeting at 9am in Baluwatar while the Dahal faction has also scheduled a Central Committee meeting at Karki Banquet, Babarmahal at 1 pm.
When Oli’s CPN-UML and Dahal’s Maoist Centre had announced their merger in May 2018, they had agreed upon having shares in party committees at 60:40 ratio. Accordingly, the 441-member Central Committee had 241 leaders from then UML and 200 leaders from the Maoist Centre. The 45-member Standing Committee too had similar composition with 25 members from the UML and 18 from the Maoist Centre.
But lately the equation has changed.
Some Maoist leaders like Ram Bahadur Thapa, Haribol Gajurel, Mani Thapa, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi have yet to make it clear which side they are on. Party Vice-chairman Bamdev Gautam who has been with the Dahal faction of late also has decided to sit on the fence. While a Standing Committee member close to Oli, Raghubir Mahaseth, attended the meeting of the Dahal-Nepal faction, former Maoist leader and minister Lekhraj Bhatta joined today’s meeting of lawmakers called by Oli.
According to insiders, Tuesday’s meetings of the both factions will be decisive, which will most likely seal the fate of the Nepal Communist Party.
Just as Oli put an end to the nearly two-thirds majority government with a stroke of the pen, he also killed what leaders had called back in May 2018 “a communist movement,” say leaders from both the factions.