Aided by Deuba ordinance, dissidents split two partiesMadhav Nepal applies for CPN UML (Samajbadi) and Mahantha Thakur for Janata Samajbadi Party (Loktantrik).
An ordinance introduced by the Sher Bahadur Deuba government has led to splits in at least two parties, marking what observers say an unprecedented political event.
After Madhav Kumar Nepal, a senior communist leader, applied for a new party—Communist Party of Nepal Unified Marxist Leninist (Samajbadi)—at the Election Commission, following the promulgation of the ordinance, the country’s largest political party, the CPN-UML, has split. The UML is led by KP Sharma Oli.
Similarly, the Janata Samajbadi Party, the fourth largest force in Parliament also lost a chunk after Mahantha Thakur registered Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal (Loktantrik).
“We decided to form a new party due to the discriminatory attitudes of KP Oli,” said Rajendra Pandey, who is close to Nepal. “Oli refused to correct his mistakes. He did not even admit his mistakes.”
The registration of a new party by Nepal brings to end a long-standing feud between him and Oli in the UML. On Tuesday, Oli had expelled Nepal and 13 other lawmakers.
After applying for the new party, Nepal issued a statement alleging that Oli had pushed the communist movement towards dissolution.
“There is a need to reorganise and transform the UML. So we have decided to register the CPN UML (Samajbadi). I urge all to participate in this movement and support us. I appeal to all to mobilise to strengthen the communist movement and mega campaign for democracy and nationalism,” said Nepal.
Oli has called Nepal’s move a ‘black day in Nepal’s communist movement’.
Though the Nepal faction has not made it clear yet how many parliamentarians it commands, one of its leaders said they have support of at least 30 lawmakers.
Some senior UML leaders who had earlier supported Nepal have not joined the new party.
The new party will be led by Nepal, with Jhala Nath Khanal, a senior communist leader and former prime minister, ranking second. Khanal is currently undergoing treatment in Delhi.
Bhim Rawal, Surendra Pandey, Gokarna Bista, Ashta Laxmai Shakya and Raghuji Pant are some of the leaders who were with the Nepal faction but have not joined the new party yet.
As per the application for party registration at the Election Commission, the proposed strength of the new party’s central committee is 95.
The ordinance on Wednesday also facilitated the formation of a party led by Thakur, a senior leader from the Madhes. In what may be dubbed an irony, Thakur’s Rastriya Janata Party had merged with Upendra Yadav’s Sanghiya Samajbadi Party in April last year because of a similar ordinance the erstwhile Oli government had brought. Thakur parted ways with Yadav 16 months later on Wednesday—also because of a similar ordinance, now introduced by the Deuba government.
“We have registered a new party, but we have not decided yet on joining the government,” said Rajendra Mahato, a leader close to Thakur. “The support extended by our lawmakers to Deuba, however, continues.”
Mahato told the Post that they have support of 15 lawmakers—out of 32 of the Janata Samajbadi Party.
“We were facing difficulties in the Janata Samajbadi Party as we had issues with the Yadav group,” Mahato told the Post. “We had differences on a host of issues. The ordinance paved the way for us to form a new party.”
The Janata Samajbadi Party will be led by Thakur and Mahato is likely to have the position of “senior leader”.
The ordinance issued by the Deuba government amended the provisions related to party split of the Political Parties Act-2017. As per the new provision, any group that can prove the support of 20 percent of members in the Central Committee or Parliamentary Party can quit the mother party and register a new party. Before the amendment, such a group had to prove the support of 40 percent of members in the Central Committee and Parliamentary Party.
When the Oli government had issued a similar ordinance in April last year, it had sought to change the “and” provision to “or”, keeping the 40 percent provision the same. However, after widespread criticism, including from Deuba’s Nepali Congress, the ordinance was withdrawn.
Deuba now has attracted opprobrium for introducing a similar ordinance, which his party, the Nepali Congress, had called an undemocratic move and irresponsible attitude that undermined the parliamentary system.
“With the issuance of the ordinance by the Deuba government, I don’t think there is constitutional morality anymore in the country,” said Daman Nath Dhungana, a civil society member and former House Speaker. “We will see more instability now.”
Nepali political parties’ excessive focus on stability had led to enacting tough laws on party splits, as they believed frequent party splits were the cause of instability in the country.
“With the decision to promulgate the ordinacne, Deuba may have managed to secure a majority and prolonged his stay in power. The Nepali Congress will benefit out of it. But at what cost?” said Dhungana. “Ultimately it’s democracy that has been sacrificed for political parties’ vested interests.”
According to Dhungana, the Nepali Congress has failed in its duty to uphold parliamentary supremacy.
In what looked like a deliberate attempt to undermine the parliamentary system, the Deuba government introduced the ordinance on Wednesday, two days after proroguing the House, which had reconvened on July 18 following its restoration by the Supreme Court on July 12. Oli had dissolved the House on May 21, for a second time in less than six months. Earlier in December also, Oli had dissolved the House. It was reinstated on February 23 by the Supreme Court.
Observers say the Deuba government has committed a political crime by proroguing the House with a malafide intention to issue the ordinance, which is aimed purely at serving some vested political interests.
Nepali Congress leaders, who had launched an all-out attack on Oli for issuing the ordinance last year, however, are trying to defend Deuba’s ordinance now.
“The ordinance is a compulsion,” said Prakash Sharan Mahat, joint general secretary of the Congress party. “We are for ensuring stability, as the country has already seen frequent House dissolutions.”