With neither side ready to back down, confrontation in UML continuesOli calls a meeting of the Parliamentary Party which Nepal faction may skip and invite action, leaders say.
When the Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of the CPN-UML announced that it would hold a national gathering of party cadres on March 17 and 18, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli warned against organising such meetings and urged cadres not to attend it.
Ignoring his warning, the gathering did go ahead on Wednesday, raising the possibility of more confrontation within the already fractured ruling party.
“We dared Oli to take action against us,” Central Committee member Gangalal Tuladhar said. “Today we organised a gathering of more than 2,500 party leaders and cadres. So how many people will face action? If he starts taking action against us, then what will happen to Oli himself?”
More scathing was what Nepal had to say in the report he presented at the gathering.
“As Oli has made mistakes, he should resign,” the report said. “The party should prepare for an acting leadership. Decisions made by the factions should be scrapped.”
The two-day gathering was called after Oli on March 12 decided to relieve leaders close to Nepal of their responsibilities such as party vice chairs and provincial committee in-charge.
During a meeting between Oli and Nepal as well as a number of leaders of the two factions at the party headquarters on March 15, neither Oli agreed to scrap the March 12 decisions nor Nepal agreed to cancel the gathering and withdraw his faction’s decision to form parallel committees across the country.
Addressing the gathering on Wednesday, Nepal said, “Oli’s behaviour has shut the door for party unity. Oli is trying to break our party into pieces.”
Oli and Nepal had a troubled relationship ever since the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) was formed after the merger between CPN-UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), forcing Nepal to eventually side with Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the other chair of the now defunct party, to counter Oli’s moves.
Oli dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20 as a result of the feud, accusing detractors in his party of not letting him work. On February 23, the Supreme Court restored the House in an apparent victory for Nepal. But the celebration was short lived as the Supreme Court on March 7 invalidated the May 2018 merger of the two parties and revived the CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre.
Nepal had no option but to return to the UML but Oli upped the ante with his March 12 decisions.
In his paper presented at Wednesday’s meeting, Nepal said the party should move ahead towards unity, reorganisation and transformation to attain the ultimate goal of socialism.
He also called on the party to be restored to the state it was in before the merger with the Maoist Centre and follow its statute in functioning.
The Nepal faction has said that the decision to scrap the position of vice-chairs and to induct 23 new Central Committee members who belong to the Maoist Centre, another decision of March 12, is against the party statute.
Oli, not one to back down, has now called a meeting of the UML Parliamentary Party on Thursday, and it clashes with the second day of the Nepal faction’s gathering.
“The party has faced some serious problems of late,” chief whip of the UML, Bishal Bhattarai said. “Issues related to the party, how to present itself in Parliament and how to protect the party unity will be discussed at the meeting.”
But it is not clear whether the lawmakers from the Nepal faction will attend the meeting.
“We are holding a two-day national jamboree of which they are aware,” Yogesh Bhattarai, head of the publicity department of the Nepal faction, told the Post. “We received the invitation through SMS only today so we are not going to participate. We would have participated in the meeting but we have communicated to them that due to our busy schedule, we cannot attend it.”
But deputy Parliamentary Party leader of the UML Subas Nembang hopes that lawmakers from the Nepal faction will attend Thursday’s meeting.
“This kind of meeting is called during Parliament sessions. We will discuss how to present ourselves in Parliament, which is due to sit on Friday,” Nembang told the Post. “We hope all our friends will participate in the meeting. We have already informed them to be present.”
The rift in the party was also evident from the developments in Karnali Province with the UML on Wednesday officially withdrawing its support to Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi of the Maoist Centre. But the Nepal faction has opposed the decision to withdraw support extended to the Shahi government, as it believes that the possibility of UML and Maoist Centre working together is still there.
The Oli government still enjoys the support of the Maoist Centre but if the latter were to withdraw it, the government will turn into a minority one and pave the way for the formation of a new government.
But rather than working out ways to save his government, Oli at the moment looks more focused on party matters given his disagreement with Nepal.
The Nepal faction’s absence from Thursday’s Parliamentary Party meeting will invite Oli’s ire, according to a leader close to the prime minister.
“Since Oli has a majority in the party’s parliamentary committee, the scheduled meeting is likely to take action against lawmakers from the Nepal camp,” said the leader on condition of anonymity.