What’s stopping joint political movement against Oli’s move?Observers and parties say the nature of split in the Nepal Communist Party is still unclear. Should the two factions decide to unite, the movement will be a dud, they say.
It has been almost two weeks since Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli dissolved the House of Representatives, a move that has prompted all political parties to hit the streets.
From the Madhav Kumar Nepal and Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led faction of Nepal Communist Party, which parted ways with Oli in the wake of the House dissolution, to the Nepali Congress, Janata Samajbadi Party, Bibeksheel Sajha Party to Rastriya Prajatantra Party, all of them have raised strong objection to Oli’s action, calling it “unconstitutional and undemocratic”.
But while their opinion concerning the dissolution of the lower house of Parliament remains the same, they are yet to come together on the streets to challenge Oli’s December 20 move.
The big political forces, namely Nepali Congress, which was the main opposition party before the House dissolution, Janata Samajbadi Party and the Nepal-Dahal-led Nepal Communist Party, which severed ties with Oli days after he dissolved the lower house, have so far staged separate rallies and protest programmes.
So what’s holding them from forming a joint front against Oli’s decision to disband the House of Representatives and call for snap polls on April 30 and May 10?
Some political analysts say that these political parties must have a clear roadmap of the protest, where they want to reach and what they want to achieve, in order to form a united front.
This has not happened so far, although the parties are trying to bring all political forces together to challenge Oli’s move through street protests.
In order to launch a joint protest movement, the Dahal-Nepal faction of the Nepal Communist Party held two back-to-back interactions with various political parties and civil society groups on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Baburam Bhattarai, former prime minister and the leader of Janata Samajbadi Party, said during Wednesday’s interaction that a joint protest movement has not kicked off because the relations between the two factions of the Nepal Communist Party is still unclear.
“What if the two factions decide to patch up? Our protest movement will be meaningless then. We want to be clear which side the Nepal Communist Party is on,” Bhattarai said, demanding answers from the Dahal-Nepal faction.
Meanwhile, the Nepali Congress is also not comfortable joining forces with the Dahal-Nepal faction of Nepal Communist Party.
The party has decided to maintain an equal distance from both the Dahal-Nepal and the Oli factions for now.
This apparent lack of unity is not limited among the political parties alone, though. Even civil society groups are a scattered lot.
Prof Krishna Khanal, a political commentator, believes the current agenda concerns the political parties and it is them who should decide their destination.
“What do the political parties want—restoration of the House or the elections? What is their destination? What do they want to achieve? They have just been protesting so far, it is not an agitation. Agitation and protest are two different things. Parties have not gone into the agitation stage yet. I think they will do so once the Supreme Court delivers the verdict on Oli’s House dissolution move,” said Khanal.
The Supreme Court has started hearing on the petitions filed against Oli’s move of dissolving the lower house.
Meanwhile, three major political parties, Nepali Congress, the Dahal-Nepal faction of Nepal Communist Party and Janata Samajbadi Party, have announced their second round of protests, which they plan to hold separately.
Raghuji Pant, a leader from the Dahal-Nepal faction, believes that the parties will eventually join forces against Oli’s action.
“We have just completed the first phase of our protest. It will take some more time for the people and the parties to come together,” he told the Post. “There will be a series of protests once the political parties and the people arrive at the same conclusion, that Oli’s move threatens to demolish the system and undo all achievements.”.
Pant also sympathised with former prime minister Bhattarai’s concern regarding the unclear relations between the two factions of Nepal Communist Party.
“We are clarifying our position, but it does not seem to be enough. But I have sensed that there is a growing positive environment among the political parties, civil society members and others to hold a joint protest,” he said.
A senior Nepali Congress leader told the Post that the party president, Sher Bahadur Deuba, was still unconvinced that the Nepal Communist Party had really split.
“According to President Deuba’s contention, the party is still one because the Elections Commission has not acknowledged the split by registering two separate parties,” the leader told the Post.
Nepali Congress Spokesperson Bishow Prakash Sharma also confirmed the position maintained by the party leadership.
“Yes, we do have common views against Oli’s move, but we have decided to hold separate protest programmes, because we still see Oli, Dahal and Nepal as the leaders of the same party,” he said.
“Where was Dahal and Nepal and their faction leaders who were in the Oli Cabinet when anti-democratic laws were introduced? Why didn't they oppose those anti-constitutional and anti-democratic laws then?”
Uddhab Pyakurel, assistant professor at Kathmandu University and a political columnist, says doubts are warranted against the Dahal-Nepal faction from the parties because it had done little to keep Oli in check when his government introduced a series of oppressive laws in the past.
“The Dahal-Nepal faction is the first victim of Oli’s move, so they are now calling for a joint protest movement. But what did it do to make Oli responsible towards the people, the system, the parliament and the constitution when it was part of the same party?” said Pyakurel.
“Dahal and Nepal cannot convince or win over the parties and the people overnight to forge an alliance to stand up against Oli's move.It will take some more time for the people and the parties to realize the situation and come to the streets as a single, united force.”