What if Supreme Court gives Nepal Communist Party to Kattel?The decision could make Nepal Communist Party (NCP) null and void, taking the warring factions to the state prior to May 2018 when UML and Maoist Centre had merged.
The Supreme Court said on Thursday that it would pass a verdict on a case related to the Nepal Communist Party, which is in the name of Rishi Kattel, on March 4, stoking speculation what course Nepali politics could take, as the decision could also be instrumental in determining the fate of the Nepal Communist Party which is currently registered in the name of KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
The Oli-Dahal party was registered as the Nepal Communist Party (NCP)—with NCP within brackets—at the Election Commission in May 2018 after the poll body said it could not allot Nepal Communist Party as it was already registered in the name of Kattel.
The Nepal Communist Party (NCP), however, split politically after Oli’s December 20 House dissolution move. Oli leads one faction and the other faction is led by Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal.
Oli and Dahal had decided to form the Nepal Communist Party after merging their CPN-UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre).
After the Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned Oli’s decision, now both factions are making their own strategies to prevail. However, a lot now is going to depend on the court decision on the Nepal Communist Party (Kattel) issue.
Legal experts say broadly there are two possibilities if the Supreme Court decides to give legality of the Nepal Communist Party to Kattel. First, the Nepal Communist Party registered by Oli and Dahal in May 2018 will have to get registered again with a new name. Second, the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) would be null and void thereby taking the UML and Maoist Centre back to the pre-merger state.
“There will be CPN-UML led by Oli and CPN (Maoist Centre) led by Dahal,” said Mohan Lal Acharya, an advocate who was also an adviser to the Constituent Assembly. “Or else Oli and Dahal have to go to the Election Commission demanding any other name for the Nepal Communist Party (NCP).”
But bitterness has grown so much between Oli and Dahal that it looks unlikely they will go to seek another name to remain under it, as they have fallen out with each other.
If the situation returns to the pre-merger, or pre-May 18, 2018 state, Oli is likely to benefit.
The CPN-UML is currently registered at the Election Commission in the name of Sandhya Tiwari. Tiwari is not a known name in politics. A nurse by profession, she is from Biratnagar.
Many believe the CPN-UML was registered at the behest of Oli on August 19 last year and that Tiwari is just a face. If the Nepal Communist Party (NCP)’s status becomes void, Oli can take over the Tiwari-led CPN-UML.
There are also chances that Oli could bring Kattel under his wings and take his Nepal Communist Party, thereby keeping the name, the sun symbol and the party flag.
Analysts say if Oli gets hold of the Tiwari-led UML, that could give him an edge, as former UML leaders who are currently with the Dahal-Nepal faction may come to their “mother party”.
This could lead to difficulties for Dahal. He either has to form a new party altogether or he chould convince Gopal Kirati, a former Maoist leader who has the CPN (Maoist Centre) under him.
Advocate Dandapani Poudel had on December 7, 2018 registered a writ petition at the Supreme Court, on behalf of Kattel, demanding that the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Oli and Dahal be scrapped as its registration violates Clause 6(e) of the Political Parties Act-2017.
The clause states that a new party cannot be registered if the name and party’s emblem resemble those of a party already registered with the Election Commission.
Poudel in his petition claimed that the ruling party had used power to get Nepal Communsit Party (NCP) registered even though Nepal Communist Party was already registered in the name of Kattel.
“It’s like Oli’s dissolution case—there is no legal ground for Oli and Dahal to get the name,” Poudel told the Post. “They had abused power and forced the commission to register the Nepal Communist Party by adding NCP within brackets.”
The Nepal Communist Party (NCP) legitimacy dispute is currently with the Election Commission, which has not given any verdict, even though the Dahal-Nepal faction has claimed that it should get the party.
With the House reinstated, politics is either likely to get deadlocked or Oli will continue to remain prime minister unless he voluntarily resigns on moral grounds because his dissolution move was overturned by the Supreme Court.
Oli could be removed only if the Dahal-Nepal faction moves a no-confidence motion against him, but unless the Congress backs it, it will fail in the House.
The Dahal-Nepal faction cannot even call a Parliamentary Party meeting, as its leader is Oli and deputy leader Subas Nembang, an aide to Oli.
In a sudden move, Oli on Friday changed the chief whip. He removed Dev Gurung, a leader of the Dahal-Nepal faction, and appointed Bishal Bhattarai.
Lilamani Pokhrel, a Standing Committee member of the Dahal-Nepal faction, said he cannot imagine the Supreme Court awarding the Nepal Communist Party to anyone else except them [Dahal-Nepal faction].
“It’s like Oli’s House dissolution case. I was always confident that the court would not endorse it,” Pokhrel told the Post. “In this case also, I cannot imagine the court will give the name to Kattel.”
Gurung, who was ousted by Oli as the chief whip on Friday, said that the Election Commission could ask them to get registered with any other name than Nepal Communist Party (NCP) if the Supreme Court decides in favour of Kattel.
“Yes, conspiracies, however, are going on to revive former CPN-UML and former CPN (Maoist Centre),” Gurung told the Post. “We will see how the situation unfolds.”
Experts say it’s unclear yet how Oli and Dahal will make their moves in case the court decides in Kattle’s favour, which will render the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) null and void. It’s too early to say if Oli and Dahal will seek another name for their party or they will go back to the former UML and Maoist Centre, which are registered in the names of Tiwari and Kattel.
Former chief election commissioner Bhojraj Pokharel said the Supreme Court decision on March 4 could work as a future guideline for the Election Commission as well in order for it to be more careful in deciding such cases when party names clash.
“But in the first place, it was the duty of the Election Commission to decide on the matter [back in May 2018],” Pokhrel told the Post. “It was a mistake on the part of the commission to award a party name to [Oli and Dahal] when a party with a similar name had already been registered with the Election Commission.”
Kattel, 70, had registered the Nepal Communist Party at the Election Commission in 2013 after his party CPN-Unified split. When the Bamdev Gautam-led CPN-ML decided to rejoin the CPN-UML in 2001, CP Mainali along with Kattel had decided to remain with the CPN-ML.
Kattel joined left politics from the All Nepal National Free Students Union 53 years ago. Since he was a vocal critic of Madan Bhandari’s People’s Multi-party Democracy, he refused to join the UML even after Gautam went back to the mother party.
Pokharel said it is too early to make any predictions before the Supreme Court passes its decision.
“Let’s not project anything to happen earlier but if the court decides in Kattel’s favour, an already complicated situation will be further complicated.”