Indecision in Congress, Samajbadi Party as Dahal and Nepal grope in the darkFormer election commissioners call on the Election Commission to resolve the Nepal Communist Party dispute at the earliest to facilitate the political process.
On Wednesday, three senior Nepali Congress leaders made three different statements regarding the formation of a new government, only to add to the confusion amid political uncertainties.
Addressing a mass gathering in Chitwan, Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba said that he is ready to become the prime minister if the situation arises, provided that the Nepal Communist Party sees a formal split.
Party General Secretary Shashank Koirala, while interacting with journalists in the same district, said that the Nepali Congress should not hesitate to join hands with the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of the Nepal Communist Party “to oust Oli”.
“The Nepali Congress should grab every chance to lead the next government with the support of the Dahal-Nepal faction,” said Koirala. “If the Nepali Congress joins the government, the Nepal Communist Party will automatically split.”
Soon after the two senior party leaders expressed their views that the Nepali Congress should lead or join the next government, party’s senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel wrote on Facebook that since the Nepali people had mandated the party to sit in the opposition, the party should abide by the people’s verdict and avoid joining the government.
Such statements from party leaders, say insiders, are a clear indication of a deep division in the Nepali Congress.
“Deuba is not too keen to join hands with the Dahal-Nepal faction,” a central member told the Post. “He is rather waiting for a proposal from Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli with whom he believes he shares a good rapport.”
Oli, on the other hand, has made public his intentions that he will face Parliament rather than resign.
He is reportedly also conveying to leaders within his orbit and from the Nepali Congress that he would most likely prorogue the House within a few days after it commences its first meeting after eight months on Sunday and create a situation for early elections.
A leader close to Deuba said that the party president is also keeping a close eye on the Supreme Court’s decision on Rishiram Kattel’s claim over the Nepal Communist Party name.
The Supreme Court had set Thursday’s date for the final verdict, but it is likely to be out only on Friday, as Thursday has been declared court holiday due to the death of a former justice.
Meanwhile, the Dahal-Nepal faction is on a spree to oust leaders from the Oli faction. On Wednesday alone, the faction’s Central Committee meeting “sacked” as many as seven leaders belonging to the Oli camp. It removed Subas Nembang as deputy leader of the Parliamentary Party and ousted Bishal Bhattarai as a Central Committee member. Bhattarai was recently appointed by Oli as the chief whip by removing Dev Gurung, a leader from the Dahal-Nepal faction.
The Dahal-Nepal faction appears to be preparing for a no-confidence motion against Oli, but it has not taken any decision to that effect as of now. If it were to file such a motion, it needs to take the Nepali Congress into confidence. As per the existing provisions, a party filing a no-confidence motion must name a leader as the next prime minister. The question is whether the Nepali Congress will support the Dahal-Nepal faction if Dahal is proposed as the next prime minister.
“What if Oli himself seeks a vote of confidence if the Dahal-Nepal faction does not make any move?” said Bishwa Prakash Sharma, spokesperson for the Nepali Congress. “So Deuba is weighing these options before the party takes a formal decision.”
For Oli to remain in power after seeking a vote of confidence, Congress party’s support will be necessary and such a support is possible depending on what is on offer.
Will Oli be ready to offer the prime minister’s post to Deuba to spite the Dahal-Nepal faction?
The answer is elusive.
Narayan Kaji Shrestha, spokesperson for the Nepal Communist Party (Dahal-Nepal faction), said the leadership will probably meet with Congress leaders on Thursday or Friday and take decisions accordingly, including on filing a no-confidence motion against Oli.
“We have been busy in our own internal meetings. From Thursday, there will be meetings with Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party leaders,” said Shrestha. “If the Congress party is not going to make any move until our party is divided, it must press the Election Commission to expedite the party division process.”
Janata Samajbadi Party leaders, however, say they have not taken a decision as of now on whether to support any faction or stay neutral.
A leader said the party is waiting for the Nepali Congress to make a move first.
“Dahal and Nepal must be able to tell us which party they lead,” said Uprendra Yadav, chair of the Janata Samajbadi Party. “What will Dahal and Nepal do if Oli issues a whip to lawmakers asking them to support him?”
There is a general understanding among Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party leaders that politics would be less complicated if the Election Commission decides on the Nepal Communist party legitimacy.
The Election Commission has been facing criticism for failing to perform its constitutional duty.
On Wednesday, five former chief commissioners and commissioners of the Election Commission called on the commission to take an early decision on the legitimacy dispute of the Nepal Communist Party.
“We urge the commission to take an appropriate decision as per the existing laws and the past decisions taken by the commission on similar disputes at the earliest, considering the impact its indecision would have on the country's political process and credibility of the commission,” reads a statement issued by the former election officials.
“Questions have been raised about the decision-making capacity and independence of the commission due to the commission’s delay in settling a dispute of a political party.”
Former chief commissioners Surya Prasad Shrestha, Bhojraj Pokharel, Nil Kantha Uprety, Ayodhee Prasad Yadav and former commissioner Dolakh Bahadur Gurung issued the joint statement.
The Nepali Congress, which is extremely concerned over the Nepal Communist Party split, has called a meeting of its Party Parliamentary on Thursday, which will be followed by a Central Working Committee meeting next week.
“We are open to joining hands either with Oli or the Dahal-Nepal faction,” said Ramesh Lekhak. “If any of the factions seeks our party’s support, it must offer the government leadership to us.”