Conflict continues to escalate in UML with both factions upping the anteThe Nepal-Khanal faction plans to revive all party committees to counter Oli while the latter appears firm on bulldozing decisions.
The CPN-UML fight is on–and it’s escalating by the day.
The Madhav Kumar Nepal-Jhala Nath Khanal faction of the UML has decided to launch a nationwide campaign to revive and reorganise all the party committees in the stage they were some three years ago—prior to its merger with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre). The Nepal-Khanal group’s move is aimed at attacking the faction led by party chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
Oli, on the other hand, is threatening action against leaders of the Nepal-Khanal group.
On Thursday, Oli called a meeting of the Parliamentary Party and decided to form a Parliamentary Board with 24 members, including Nepal and Khanal.
Though parliamentarians of the Nepal-Khanal faction were supposed to attend the meeting, most of them did not. Some, however, attended the meeting.
Insiders say Oli appears to be clear in his strategy—proving his strength and dangling the threat of action against his opponents.
The Nepal-Khanal faction at this time finds itself in a tight spot. The March 7 court order reviving the UML and the Maoist Centre came as a bitter pill to swallow for the group as it was left with no option than to return to the UML fold.
The two-day national gathering of the Nepal-Khanal group, which concluded on Thursday, decided that they will continue their internal struggle and face the challenges ahead.
“We are for the unity of the CPN-UML. So we will continue our struggle by being within the party. We don’t have any plans to announce a split,” said Yogesh Bhattarai after the faction’s national gathering. “We, however, won’t attend the Central Committee meeting. But we may attend Parliamentary Party meetings if they are held following the due procedure.”
Leaders from the Nepal-Khanal faction group want to up the ante against Oli but they also fear losing their lawmaker positions.
The Parliamentary Party meeting held at Baluwatar on Thursday decided to direct lawmakers of the Khanal-Nepal faction to return with “self-realisation” or else face action.
According to Shanta Chaudhary, the party’s whip, the meeting decided that the party will take necessary legal action against those who violate the party’s directions.
Addressing the national gathering organised by his faction, Nepal said that some lawmakers attended the Parliamentary Party meeting at Baluwatar because of a communication gap.
“But the way they were humiliated shows Oli’s intentions are not good,” said Nepal. “Oli is vindictive and signs are not good.”
Oli has called a Central Committee meeting on Sunday, but the Nepal-Khanal faction has refused to attend, saying that Oli must withdraw the decisions he had taken through the March 12 Central Committee meeting.
On March 12, Oli amended the party statute and inducted as many as 23 Maoist members into the Central Committee. Oli also relieved leaders close to Nepal of their responsibilities.
Leaders from the Nepal-Khanal faction say Oli is making all attempts, legal or illegal, to exact revenge on them. Those from Oli’s orbit say the Nepal-Khanal faction does deserve punishment, for until the court revived the UML and the Maoist Centre, they were making all attempts to unseat Oli.
Nepal in particular has been Oli’s arch-rival in the UML. The merger to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in May 2018 had helped Oli emerge as a powerful leader. Oli’s highhandedness had irked Nepal no end, as he was once relegated to the fourth rank in the party.
Nepal hence gradually sided with Pushpa Kamal Dahal who held the chair’s post in the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) alongside Oli. The Dahal-Nepal alliance at one point became so strong that Oli saw them as a massive threat and to stay afloat, he dissolved the House on December 20.
Though the Supreme Court overturned Oli’s December decision on February 23, what the Dahal-Nepal hailed as their own victory, the March 7 court decision, hours before the meeting of the reinstated House, in essence, brought a split in the Dahal-Nepal faction.
Now Oli is in a bid to use the newly formed parliamentary board to initiate actions against whoever comes on his way.
The party’s statute envisions such a board which can make recommendations on initiating actions against those who violate the directives of the Parliamentary Party.
“The root cause of the conflict in the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) was Oli’s attempt to corner Nepal’s group siding with Dahal,” said Beduram Bhusal, a Standing Committee member representing Khanal-Nepal faction. “Now in the revived UML, Oli is making similar attempts to finish those off who do not agree with him.”
On March 12 Oli held two separate meetings of the UML’s Central Committee at Baluwatar without informing any of the central members belonging to the Khanal-Nepal faction and amended the party statute to incorporate 23 central members from the Maoist Centre.
The Oli faction appears to be firm on holding the Central Committee meeting on March 20, as it believes it controls the majority. The UML’s Central Committee has 201 members including 44 alternative members.
Prithvi Subba Gurung, the party secretary who is close to Oli, said had the Nepal faction controlled the majority, it would have called the Central Committee meeting.
“It does not matter if they don’t attend the Central Committee meeting scheduled for March 20,” Gurung told the Post. “The party now will start taking actions against those who violate the party’s whip. The Parliamentary Party meeting held at Baluwatar today has already decided to form a 24-member parliamentary board.”
According to Gurung, the Nepal-Khanal faction is confused and it lacks clarity on what it actually wants.
“Members who are said to be close to them today will gradually fall in line, as they will realise what the UML actually means for them,” said Gurung. “Khanal and Nepal’s absence in the Central Committee meeting won’t mean much.”
Political analysts say the Nepal-Khanal faction’s struggle against Oli could lead the party towards more confrontation.
“It was because of Oli’s working style the Nepal Communist Party was in a disarray. The UML is now in a crisis,” said Rajendra Maharjan, a political analyst. “If you don’t give respectable space to leaders, divisions are inevitable.”
Leaders from the Nepal-Khanal faction also believe that the conflict will escalate in the coming days as Oli has shown no remorse for his actions.
“Both factions now will try to woo leaders and cadres,” said Surendra Pandey, a Standing Committee member close to Nepal. “The divisions will be seen throughout all levels of the party across the country. Confrontation has begun.”