Renewed feud leads CPN-UML towards a vertical splitAs Oli prevails, the Nepal-Khanal group is in a bid to form parallel party committees and has called a national gathering of its own on March 17-18.
The CPN-UML, which was revived by the Supreme Court last week, appears to be headed for a split.
While the group led by party chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is trying to tighten its grip with his own decisions, the group led by Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal has decided to hold a national gathering on March 17-18 in Kathmandu and form parallel party committees.
“We have decided to revive and reorganise all the previous committees of the CPN-UML throughout the country, including its affiliated professional organisations,” said Bhim Rawal, a Standing Committee member, from the Nepal-Khanal group.
On Friday, in a sudden move, Oli held back-to-back meetings of the Central Committee, amended the party statute and stripped leaders close to Nepal of their responsibilities.
Rawal said that Oli is forcing the party towards a split.
The Nepal group has appointed its own leaders in charge of provincial committees, in response to Oli’s Friday decision to appoint leaders close to him to oversee the party’s provincial activities.
The Nepal group has appointed Bhim Acharya as the party in-charge for Province 1; Ghanashyam Bhusal for Province 2; Asta Laxmi Shakya for Bagmati; Surendra Pandey for Gandaki; Yubaraj Gyawali for Lumbini and Karnali and Bhim Rawal for Sudurpaschim.
Acharya, Shakya, Gyawali and Rawal were in charge of the provinces before the UML had merged with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre).
But on Friday, Oli had removed them and given Subas Nembang the party’s charge in Province 1, Satya Narayan Mandal in Province 2, Ram Bahadur Thapa in Bagmati, Shankar Pokhrel in Lumbini, Yam Lal Kandel in Karnali and Lekhraj Bhatta in Sudurpaschim.
Saturday’s meeting of the Nepal-Khanal group also nominated chiefs of the party’s various departments. Raghuji Pant has been nominated chief of the youth department, Gokarna Bista of the student department, Yogesh Bhattarai of the publicity department, Asta Laxmi Shakya of women’s department and Pramesh Hamal will lead the intellectuals’ department of the party.
Amid this, Oli has called the party’s next Central Committee meeting on March 20 and instructed General Secretary Ishwar Pokhrel to inform the Nepal-led faction as well.
But the Nepal-led faction is unlikely to attend the meeting, as Oli does not seem to be in a mood to withdraw his decision of inducting 23 leaders from the Maoist Centre to the party’s central committee.
On Saturday, while speaking at the national gathering of All Nepal Women Association at Bhrikuti Mandap, Oli even warned of action against leaders of the Nepal group as per the party statute if they fail to attend the Central Committee meeting.
“We won’t attend the Central Committee meeting of March 20 if Oli refuses to withdraw his Friday decisions,” said Rajendra Rai, a Central Committee member of the Nepal-Khanal group.
The Nepal-Khanal faction has around 40 lawmakers and 104 central members on its side. The UML has 120 members in Parliament and the party’s Central Committee is 205-member strong.
Since the Nepal group does not have 40 percent of parliamentarians with it, it cannot make a move to split the party. As per the Political Parties Acto-2017, a group must have 40 percent of parliamentarians and Central Committee members to split from a party and register a new party.
“Now a split is inevitable,” said Rai. “We will have two different structures of the CPN-UML but the party will remain one legally.”
Nepal, Khanal and other leaders close to them had sided with Dahal and were demanding Oli’s resignation. Oli had said that he was forced to dissolve the House because his opponents in the party did not allow him to work. After the House dissolution, Nepal and Dahal’s alliance grew stronger. Though Oli and Nepal saw each other as rivals in the UML, their relations this time hit the lowest point. But the March 7 decision of the Supreme Court turned things upside down.
Since the court explicitly ordered the revival of the CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre, the Nepal group was left with no option but to return to the UML.
But a vindictive Oli does not appear to be in any mood to accommodate Nepal, Khanal and other leaders.
Leaders close to Oli say there is no option left for Nepal other than accepting Oli’s leadership and any attempts by the Nepal group to challenge Oli would result in action. According to them, after all it was the Nepal group that had sided with Dahal in a bid to unseat Oli and even ousted Oli as a general member of the party.
“Madhav Nepal is left with no option. He cannot split the party and the party’s name and election symbol are with us,” said Krishna Rai, a Central Committee member close to Oli. “He has to oust Oli if he can, to prevail in the party; or else Oli will.”
That Oli is not going to accommodate those who once were baying for his blood seems to have dawned upon leaders from the Nepal group too.
“Oli’s intentions are becoming apparent; he wants to push us out of the party,” said Raghuji Pant, a Standing Committee member from the Nepal group.
Keeping Nepal group, however, is also in Oli’s interest, as with 120 UML lawmakers, it is easier for him to save his government by seeking the support of, say, the Janata Samajbadi Party. If the Nepal group quits, Oli will be left with around 78-80 lawmakers with him, needing around 55 lawmakers to save his government, a near impossible task in the present situation.
Insiders, however, say if push comes to shove, the Nepal group won’t mind walking away, even if that means losing party positions and lawmakers’ posts.
Political analysts say the UML appears to be heading towards a split. According to them, as of now, because of the court’s March 7 decision, cards appear to have been stacked in Oli’s favour.
“Friday’s meeting of the Oli faction and continuous meetings of the Nepal faction are indications that both leaders are playing pressure tactics,” said Jhalak Subedi, a UML leader turned political analyst. “Such activities will continue. Things will be clearer after the party’s Central Committee meeting called by Oli.”