Oli and Dahal get back to customary blame game—now a bit more fiercelyFactions led by the two leaders conclude their Central Committee meetings levelling charges against each other and vowing to outdo each other in their strength.
Tika Ram Pradhan
More political drama unfolded in Kathmandu on Thursday as both factions of the Nepal Communist Party led by KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal held their separate meetings, engaged in passing nasty remarks against each other and indulged in some gimmicks.
No one knows yet whose Nepal Communist Party is legitimate, as both have approached the Election Commission in a bid to prove their majority and claim control over the party.
In a significant development on Thursday, Ram Bahadur Thapa, a long-time ally of Dahal, decided to join the Oli faction. Thapa, who is currently home minister in the Oli Cabinet, was Dahal’s comrade in arms during the “people’s war” days. For the Dahal faction, Thapa’s defection could be a major loss but most of those leaders close to Thapa have stayed with the Dahal faction.
Thapa, who made his position clear on Thursday by joining the Oli faction’s Central Committee meeting, supported the government’s House dissolution move.
He described seeking the fresh mandate from the people as a revolutionary move.
“They [Dahal and Madhav Nepal] had promised to split the party... and finally they did it,” said Thapa. “We made the utmost effort to keep the party united, to no avail.”
The Sunday move by Oli, who is also the prime minister, of dissolving the House of Representatives effected on Tuesday a formal split in the Nepal Communist Party which was announced as a “unified big communist force” by Oli and Dahal in May 2018.
Thirty-one months later, as Oli and Dahal decided to part ways, they are now engaged in passing nasty remarks at each other.
“I hear that they [the Dahal faction] have ousted me from the party. It’s not like taking the rook in the game of chess. This is politics,” said Oli. “We have not said yet that we have taken action. But if need be, we have the capacity to do it. We don’t want to do that.”
Oli once again went to his style of making tongue-in-cheek remarks as he mentioned Dahal.
“Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who is known as Prachanda, and Madhav Nepal are engaged in destroying this [communist] movement. They have been against the national interest,” said Oli. “So friends, don’t get fooled by them.”
Dahal on his part accused Oli of attempting to stage a coup like the one in 1960.
“Attempts are being made as part of a bigger design to repeat what happened in 1960,” said Dahal, referring to king Mahendra’s move of usurping power ten years after democracy had dawned in the country. Dahal also claimed that “the party where we are” is the legitimate party, describing the other [led by Oli] as a group.
Dahal accused Oli of being a part of a big design to create the foundation for the regressive forces to hijack the communist movement and political achievements.
“Time has come for another struggle to safeguard the republican set-up and the constitution,” said Dahal. “We cannot stop the regressive moves if we do not launch a struggle.”
Dahal termed Oli’s move of dissolving the House “a cowardice act”.
“Only a coward commits such an act. A brave person would have faced Parliament,” said Dahal.
After ousting Oli as the party chair, the Dahal faction has already elected Madhav Nepal as the party chair with the status equal to Dahal.
The Oli faction on Thursday registered its amended party statute at the Election Commission. In the amended statute, Dahal’s power as chair has been removed. As per the 2018 party statute that came into force after the formation of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), both Oli and Dahal enjoyed equal status and power.
“Now all the power of the other chairman [Dahal] has been centralised on the first chair [Oli],” said Pradeep Gyawali, who was recently appointed the spokesperson of the Oli-led Nepal Communist Party. “And the authority of the second chair has been annulled.”
Both the factions on Thursday concluded the meetings of their Central Committee, with a decision to take action against each other while trying to attract party leaders and cadres.
The two factions are in a bid to prove their majority so as to claim the party name and the “sun” election symbol.
On Wednesday, the Dahal-Nepal faction, which has claimed to have 315 central members on its side, submitted the signatures of 290 members to the Election Commission.
The Oli faction, which was left with 115 central members, however, has expanded its Central Committee by adding more members. The Oli faction has declared its Central Committee to be 1,199-strong.
At the time of unification, the Nepal Communist Party had submitted the list of 441 central members to the Election Commission. Five members were added later.
As per the Political Parties Act, for a faction to split the party or register a party or retain the name of the existing party, it has to prove that 40 percent of the central members are with it.
The Dahal-Nepal faction has announced nationwide protests on December 29 against the House dissolution.
Later on Thursday, leaders from the Dahal faction reached Balkhu, where then CPN-UML’s headquarters was situated before the 2015 earthquake, and paid tribute to the statute of the late communist leader Madan Bhandari.
Bhandari is known as the communist leader who propounded the People’s Multi-party Democracy, which later became the guiding principle of then UML. The Maoist party had taken the “21st-Century People’s Democracy” as its guiding principle. When the UML and the Maoist party merged in 2018, both had taken a middle path and adopted “people’s democracy” as their ideology, pending a formal decision on it until the general convention.
But long before the general convention materialised, the party split.
While the Oli faction has a handful of former Maoist leaders, including the ones like Thapa and Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, the Dahal faction has several former UML leaders in its fold, including Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Surendra Pandey, Bhim Rawal, Yubaraj Gyawali, Ashta Laxmi Shakya, Gokarna Bista, Ghanashyam Bhusal, Yogesh Bhattarai, Beduram Bhusal, Raghuji Pant, Bhim Acharya and Mukunda Neupane.
The visit to Balkhu on Thursday by the Dahal faction is seen as a move to catch the sentiments of former UML leaders.
As both factions wait for the Election Commission to pass a verdict on who gets the party name and the election symbol, they are engaged in blame game and allegations and counter-allegations.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is also yet to decide whether the Oli government’s move of House dissolution is lawful or not.
Observers say confrontation is likely to escalate in the coming days.
“Both sides have experienced leaders who have faced splits in the past,” said Shyam Shrestha, a political commentator who has followed Nepal’s leftist politics for decades. “While Oli is vindictive, there are some leaders in the Dahal-Nepal faction who have big egos. So we cannot rule out confrontations.”