Congress leaders divided over whether to fight for House reinstatement or prepare for electionsSome leaders are in favour of using the elections to the party’s advantage because they reckon that the ruling Nepal Communist Party is heading towards a split.
The primary opposition, Nepali Congress, is in the midst of a major dilemma—whether to support the midterm elections announced by the KP Sharma Oli government or spearhead a struggle for restoration of the dissolved House of Representative.
To figure out its political course, the party convened its Central Working Committee meeting from Tuesday but the leaders are already divided.
A certain section of the party is considering the prospect of midterm polls being held on April 30 and May 10, as announced by the Oli government, and should the party start making preparations accordingly. Then there are those leaders who see no possibility of the elections and are in favour of holding a nationwide protest against the government’s move of dissolving the lower house of Parliament.
The view of Nepali Congress on Oli’s move to dissolve the House of Representatives is somewhat consistent across the board, that it is unconstitutional. But, at the same time, the announcement of snap elections has led some leaders to ponder if the party should accept Oli’s decision to go for a fresh mandate through elections.
At Tuesday’s Central Working Committee meeting, Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba said Oli’s decision to dissolve the House guided by his desire to become an autocrat, a leader told the Post.
“Nepali Congress cannot support the unconstitutional and undemocratic decision taken by the Oli administration. At this time, we have to play the role of a guardian,” the leader quoted Deuba as saying.
Though Deuba condemned Oli’s action, some leaders close to him suggested using the midterm elections in Congress’s favour, as they reckon that the ruling Nepal Communst Party is teetering on the brink of split.
Leaders from the Deuba fold, like Narayan Khadka and NP Sawad, said at the Central Working Committee meeting that the party should prepare for elections while cautioning the party leadership against taking to the streets for reinstatement of the House of Representatives.
“Even our own leaders have in the past dissolved the parliament and successfully conducted elections,” Khadka said. “Who knows what directions the protest will take.”
Khadka suggested that the party should focus on elections despite Oli’s move being unconstitutional.
“We have to wait what the Supreme Court says about the House dissolution as well, as a dozen cases have been registered against Oli’s move,” he said. “If the court decides to reinstate the House, we shall welcome the verdict. If that didn’t happen, we have to consider going to the polls. Going on a protest is the most difficult alternative.”
Senior Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel, however, is certain that holding the midterm elections within the next six months is impossible.
“Nepali Congress should strongly oppose the decision to dissolve the House of Representatives,” he told the meeting. “We should hold a nationwide protest against Oli’s decision.”
Another leader Mahesh Acharya, who is close to Poudel, expressed a similar view.
“Nepal Congress has no choice besides organising street protests against House dissolution,” he said.
Acharya also suggested that the party should spearhead a separate protest and not join the ruling party leaders who too are standing up against Oli.
“We should not support the political line of Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal when we go on a protest, because they are equally responsible for the current mess that we are in,” Acharya said.
A Central Working Committee member told the Post after Tuesday’s meeting that the House dissolution has created a clear divide in the party, one in favour of the House reinstatement and the other in favour of the polls.
The Deuba faction seems confident that Nepali Congress will gain majority if the elections were to be held as announced, while the Poudel camp is more circumspect.
“Opinions are divided,” Dr Shekhar Koirala, a Central Working Committee member, said. “I don’t see the chances of the House reinstatement, nor of the midterm elections.”
But, I do not see chances of house restoration and holding the elections in the next six months, said central working committee member Dr Shekhar Koirala, there are divided opinions inside the party.
“There is a possibility of a third scenario, the one that happened after the first Constituent Assembly was dissolved in 2012 following which an interim government was formed under Khil Raj Regmi,” added Koirala.
The Poudel faction, meanwhile, suspect that Deuba could try to push the party to join an all-party government under Oli in order to hold the midterm elections, or to form an election government led by Deuba himself.
Poodle and his supporters are wary of the recent understanding between Deuba and Oli over the appointments in various constitutional bodies.
“We should not chase after power and position,” Poudel said at the Central Working Committee meeting, warning the party leadership against forming an alliance that could jeopardise the party’s reputation.