UML dissidents pile pressure on Nepal to reconcile with OliThe second-rung politicians are guided more by their personal benefits than larger party interests, say analysts, as Oli uses their weaknesses to his advantage.
A vacillating Madhav Kumar Nepal and insecurity of the second-rung leaders in his faction are once again likely to help CPN-UML chair and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli prevail.
Even after threatening to close the doors for the Nepal faction, which is currently backing the opposition alliance led by the Nepali Congress, to the UML, Oli on July 5 revived a two-month-old 10-member task force.
The second-rung leaders of the Nepal faction were quick to take the bait. Over the past three weeks, negotiations have been going on to pave the way for Oli and Nepal to mend fences.
It has now, by and large, become apparent that a deal on power-sharing—in the party, party committees, and the government—could effect a patch-up between the two warring factions. If the Nepal group acquiesces, it will clearly mean a victory for Oli.
After Thursday’s meeting of the task force, Subas Nembang, who leads Oli’s team in the task force, told reporters that a declaration on party unity would come soon.
The recent developments have put Nepal, who is known as a risk-averse leader too slow in decision making, in a fix. It will reflect badly on him to abandon the opposition alliance abruptly. But he cannot ignore an opportunity to remain within the UML, as he knows forming a new party is not a cakewalk.
On top of that, second-rung leaders from his own faction are too keen on unity rather than forming a new party, as they are worried about their own political future.
Oli’s rapprochement efforts also stem from the fact that he would need the Nepal faction’s support after the Supreme Court verdict on House dissolution, whichever way it goes—in his favour or against.
“Oli needs the dissident group’s support regardless of how the political situation unfolds,” said Jhalak Subedi, an analyst who follows UML politics closely. “The Nepal group’s support is crucial for Oli to retain his position as prime minister, or even during the elections.”
Oli dissolved the House of Representatives for a second time on May 21 after President Bidya Devi Bhandari rejected his and Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba’s claims to the post of prime minister.
As many as 26 lawmakers from the Nepal faction had extended their support to Deuba. Twenty-three lawmakers of the Nepal faction have signed a petition that the opposition alliance led by Deuba filed at the Supreme Court challenging the House dissolution and President’s rejection of his claim to the post of prime minister.
The Supreme Court is most likely to pass a verdict on July 12.
Oli revived the task force on July 5, the day the Constitutional Bench that is examining the constitutionality of the House dissolution said it would sit next on July 12.
The 10-member task force has five politicians each from Oli and Nepal factions.
Leaders from both sides, arguing that a united UML will be in the larger interest of the party, are trying their best to find an amicable solution. Even though it was Oli who showed the signs of making a concession, he appears to be reluctant to commit to the dissident group’s demands.
Task force members from the dissident group, however, are making attempts to convince Nepal.
Surendra Pandey, one of the members of the task force, said that they have not promised to remain with the opposition alliance forever.
“There was a situation where we had a conflict in our party,” said Pandey. “Now we will follow our party’s decisions.”
According to Pandey, if the UML splits, it could leave a vacuum in the Nepali political spectrum.
“CPN-UML and the Nepali Congress are two major pillars of Nepali politics,” Pandey told the Post. “A split in any of the two parties is not good. We have decided not to let our party split at any cost.”
However, observers do not buy that argument wholly.
Those who have followed UML’s politics for decades and have kept a close eye on recent factional feud in the party say the insecurity of the second-rung leaders and the lust for power of the top brass have resulted in such statements.
“Since they don’t have any specific roadmap, their focus is on grabbing power,” said Narayan Dhakal, a political analyst and a writer who himself was an active member of the UML in the past. “These people have to think about the upcoming polls also, and they know they don’t stand a chance if they split.”
If the Supreme Court restores the House and asks Oli to secure a confidence vote under Article 76 (4), he will fail if the Nepal faction’s 23 members do not support him. Within the Nepal faction, members know if Oli continues as prime minister with their support, they will have a chance to benefit.
Political analyst Shyam Shrestha says the two groups are trying to make peace on mathematical terms, which might create a win-win situation for them, but it won’t be a lasting solution.
“A technical unity won’t last long. We have seen the unravelling of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) which was formed just to ensure a majority. The unity between the UML and the Maoists was not organic,” Shrestha told the Post. “They are looking for short-term benefits. No one is bothered about the system, procedure, the rule of law and the constitution and other various outstanding issues.”
Despite the bitterness growing between Oli and Nepal to an extreme level—both have even stooped too low on occasions while criticising each other—the latter has continuously wavered.
In May, just ahead of Oli’s confidence vote, 28 members from the Nepal faction had announced that they would resign as lawmakers. But Oli’s last-minute effort stopped them from quitting their roles. Oli lost his confidence vote because all 28 of them abstained. But these lawmakers did not support Nepali Congress’ Deuba, thereby paving the way for Oli’s appointment as prime minister on May 13.
Now when 23 UML members of the Nepal faction have backed Deuba, Oli has activated all channels to woo them back.
The second-rung leaders are now pushing Nepal to join hands with Oli. One of the ways the task force is trying to work on is creating a provision of two chairs so that Nepal could be accommodated in the party on par with Oli’s status.
“But Oli is not going to give Nepal a status equal to him,” said Shrestha. “Nepal does not seem to be very keen on a patch-up but leaders are trying to convince him. They have their personal interests.”