A setback for Dahal as court rejects his review petitionWith the court refusing to revisit the revival of the Maoist Centre and UML, Dahal’s options are limited, as Nepal faction joining hands with him soon is unlikely, insiders say.
On February 23, when the Supreme Court decided to overturn Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s December 20 move of dissolving the House of Representatives, calling it unconstitutional, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal were in Chitwan.
Both Dahal and Nepal, who had upped the ante against Oli in the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), celebrated the court decision as their victory, and images of them feeding each other sweets flooded social media platforms and some national newspapers.
The sweets, however, turned a bit bitter in less than two weeks, as on March 7 the Supreme Court in yet another decision dropped a bombshell. It scrapped the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and revived the CPN-UML and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), led by Oli and Dahal, respectively.
Politics took a new turn. The court decision’s immediate effect was seen in the Dahal-Nepal alliance. Nepal was left with no option than to remain within the UML under Oli while Dahal was thrust upon a huge responsibility of reorganising his Maoist Centre. Some influential leaders, including Ram Bahadur Thapa, decided to remain with Oli.
One option that Dahal had was withdrawing the support his Maoist Centre had lent Oli in February 2018 and put the government on a shaky ground. But Dahal could not decide. Instead, on March 30, Dahal decided to file a petition at the Supreme Court seeking a review of the March 7 decision that had revived the UML and the Maoist Centre.
But on Thursday, a full bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana, rejected his review petition.
The rejection came just as Oli initiated action against two leaders of his party—Ghanashyam Bhusal and Surendra Pandey, suspending them for six months as general members of the party. Oli on March 29 suspended Madhav Nepal and his yet another fierce critic, Bhim Rawal, for six months from the party.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is the continuation of a larger plot,” Narayan Kaji Shrestha, spokesperson for the Maoist Centre, told the Post. “We did not have much expectations from the court anyway, but by registering the review petition, we wanted to make a statement that we were not happy with the March 7 decision.”
The Supreme Court’s Thursday move squarely means that the door for unity between the UML and the Maoist Centre is closed for now, unless leaders of both the parties “take a political decision” to come together. But Dahal and Oli joining hands anytime soon is unlikely, say insiders from all the forces—the Maoist Centre, the UML and its Nepal faction.
Dahal’s review petition earlier this week came at a time when he was under pressure to withdraw the support his party had given Oli back in February 2018.
While Oli has faced criticism for not stepping down even after the court overturned his house dissolution move, the Maoist Centre too has drawn censure for not withdrawing its support.
Insiders say Dahal’s intent behind filing a review petition was that if the court overturned the March 7 decision, thereby reinstating the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), by any other name, there would be room to push Oli into a corner with the Nepal group’s backing.
However, Thursday’s decision to reject the review petition, after reviving the UML and the Maoist Centre, has made Oli even stronger in the current political equation.
But not all agree.
“Today’s court decision does not have much effect in the existing political setting though a review could have been a turning point,” said Bhusal, a Standing Committee member, who was suspended for six months as a UML party member on Thursday.
Leaders from the Nepal faction say some conspiracy is going around and that at the top of it sits Oli.
“All [that is happening] shows Oli has been trying to split our [UML] party,” said Raghuji Pant, a Standing Committee member of the Nepal faction. “We were mentally prepared for any action [he takes]. Now we will continue forming parallel committees throughout the country.”
Dahal and Nepal have been in consultation for quite some time to explore the possibility of forming their own force. The complication, however, is that Dahal leads a party currently named “Maoist Centre”—with a Maoist tag—and Nepal and other leaders from the UML are unlikely to come under that. UML leaders have, particularly post-1990, made People’s Multiparty Democracy their ideology.
For Nepal and those UML leaders who are opposed to Oli to join hands with Dahal, there must be a common “communist principle”. The one way they could find a common roof over their heads is when Dahal sheds the “Maoist tag” and seeks to create a party name that could accommodate those coming from the UML.
“Oli has been taking actions against leaders from our side, but we are not going to capitulate. We will make our fight against Oli public,” said Bishnu Rijal, a UML Central Committee member close to Nepal. “If push comes to shove, we will form our own UML party.”
According to Rijal, it is too early to talk about forming a separate party by bringing other communist forces, including the Maoist Centre, under one roof.
“For now, we will keep forming our own parallel committees [within the UML] and the process has already started,” Rijal told the Post.
The Nepal faction claims that it has at least 50 percent of the leaders and cadres in all party committees, including all sister wings and professional organisations affiliated to the UML.
Bhusal, the leader from the Nepal faction, said there was no direct relation between action taken against him and Pandey and the court decision to reject Dahal’s review petition.
“There, however, is no doubt that Oli is making moves in a systematic way to split the UML,” Bhusal told the Post.
According to analysts, both the Maoist Centre and the UML’s Nepal faction are in a difficult position now.
“If the Nepal faction does not carry out parallel activities, their people could side with Oli,” said Jhalak Subedi, a political analyst and former UML leader.
Now that the court has left Dahal to carry on with his own Maoist Centre, the one option that he has is trying to get support of the Nepal faction from the UML and other communist forces who abhor Oli.
The Nepal faction, for now, as some leaders say, will try to consolidate strength to counter Oli and if the battle reaches a point where they cannot win, they will form their own party.
“Since Oli seems to have completely locked the door, we have no option than to consolidate our strength and call for broader communist unity,” said Dilu Panta, a Central Committee member of the Nepal faction.