All eyes on Nepali Congress for joint agitation, but it’s not ready to commitParties opposed to Oli’s House dissolution move are prodding the Congress to jointly launch protests, but they are perplexed by Deuba’s reluctance.
The issue of joint agitation among the major political parties against House dissolution and the announcement to hold snap polls in April and May has gained prominence again as leaders stress the need for joint resistance to what they call Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s authoritarian moves.
Nepal Communist Party chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Thursday said major political parties were discussing the plan to hold joint protests from the third week of this month.
Major parties Nepali Congress, Janata Samajbadi Party, and the faction of the Nepal Communist Party led by Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal have been holding separate agitations since the day after Oli decided to dissolve the House on December 20 but they have failed to launch a joint movement.
Immediately after Oli decided to dissolve the House of Representatives, the Dahal-led faction reached out to mainly the two parties—Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party—and members of the civil society to hold the joint agitation but due to differences between the parties over their perceptions of Oli’s move, they could not arrive at a conclusion and the joint struggle has failed to take off.
“We are planning to launch a massive and powerful protest,” Dahal said on Thursday while addressing journalists in Lalitpur amid their nationwide shutdown. “We are in touch with all major parties to hold the joint protest from the third week of February so that the movement will sweep out the regressive and antidemocratic forces once and for all.”
“As Oli is hatching one after another regressive move, we have felt the need to launch a powerful agitation to defuse his plan,” said a standing committee member from the Dahal faction. “Therefore, we have once again called for a joint agitation so that we could finish the struggle as fast as possible and cause less trouble for the general public and restore democracy too.”
But leaders other than those from Dahal’s party said there is no progress on holding the joint protest. And even if that happens, it won’t be possible to stage a decisive protest without the participation of the Nepali Congress.
“We are in talks with several parties to hold the joint agitation but the problem is Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba,” Raghuji Pant, a standing committee member of the Dahal faction, told the Post.
Former prime minister and senior Janata Samajbadi Party leader Baburam Bhattarai made a similar statement on Thursday in Sankhuwasabha.
“The main leadership of the Nepali Congress is the sole obstacle to holding the joint agitation,” Bhattarai said. “The Nepali Congress has shown an oscillating character against Oli’s move.”
Nepali Congress, which has been holding the agitation in phases alone, has described the House dissolution as “undemocratic and unconstitutional”. The party has already declined to hold joint agitation as offered by Dahal.
The main opposition in the dissolved House has two different viewpoints among its leaders on the House dissolution decision. Party President Deuba holds the view of waiting for the Supreme Court’s verdict on the constitutionality of the dissolution. Another faction of the party led by senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel insists on holding the agitation until the House is restored.
Two Nepali Congress leaders told the Post that Dahal and Nepal have separately visited Deuba recently to offer him the post of prime minister for the two years of the House’s remaining term if it is reinstated.
This is the third offer to Deuba from the Dahal faction to hold the nationwide joint agitation and put pressure on Oli, state organs, and the Supreme Court on the agenda of House reinstatement and to take the post of prime minister after the restoration of Parliament but Deuba has not accepted yet, the two Congress leaders told the Post.
Congress Vice-president Bimalendra Nidhi confirmed the recent meeting between Deuba and Nepal but did not divulge the details.
“But if you ask me about the possibility of holding the joint agitation, I must say no,” Nidhi told the Post over the phone from Janakpur. “We have neither received such an offer nor are we going to lead the agitation at a time when a case against House dissolution is pending in the Supreme Court.
“Until the verdict of the Supreme Court comes, we will keep on holding the agitation of our own. As we believe in democracy, constitutionalism and have faith in the rule of law, we should not put pressure on the court.”
Nidhi also said that the Congress would go for a joint agitation with a party, not with a faction, hinting that there must be a clear cut split in the Nepal Communist Party.
But pressure is building on Deuba, according to party leaders. Since 32 individuals including some Congress supporters got appointed to several constitutional bodies on Wednesday, Poudel has urged Deuba to call a meeting of the party’s Central Working Committee as soon as possible to discuss Oli’s undemocratic moves and the emerging situation in the country.
Dahal’s statement on Thursday was strategic, the Standing Committee member said, as the faction has the challenge of keeping the morale of leaders and cadres high. Second, as Oli is also preparing to host a major rally on Friday, it is his strategy to motivate party workers not to leave his faction. The third motive is, obviously, to put pressure on the Supreme Court that is likely to deliver its verdict only after the February-end, the NCP leader said.
If a joint agitation is held nationwide, it might put psychological pressure on the Supreme Court on House reinstatement, the NCP standing committee leader said.
As the confrontation with Oli in the factional dispute intensifies further, Dahal could be looking for a more sustained way to counter Oli’s move, the leader added.
According to Pant, if the Nepali Congress gets ready for the joint agitation, it will also pave the way for the Janata Samjbadi Party to join the movement. Gradually, others could join along with civil society, building momentum against what the protesters call Oli’s regressive move, said Pant, expressing doubt over the Congress’ reluctance to go for a decisive protest.
A senior Janata Samajbadi Party leader also voiced the need for a joint agitation but admitted it was impossible without the participation of the Nepali Congress.
“The country seems to be headed for a serious political confrontation and that leaves us worried about the country’s future,” Janata Samajbadi Party Chairman Upendra Yadav said.
Yadav admitted that without the participation of the Nepali Congress, any movement or agitation cannot reach a decisive point. “But we do not know why the Nepali Congress is not leading the movement.”