Oli’s consensus bid fails, but he manages to prove he rules the roostVice-chairs, secretaries and central members to be voted in as Oli installs his men in key positions—Ishwar Pokhrel as senior vice-chair, Shankar Pokhrel as general secretary.
Even after two days of closed session drama, which stretched well past midnight on Sunday, KP Sharma Oli, who tried to impose his decision on the selection of a new leadership without voting, failed to stop elections. But still he managed to assert that when it comes to his party, the CPN-UML, he rules the roost.
When the UML’s 10th national congress entered its fourth day on Monday–it was initially supposed to end on Sunday after electing the new leadership for the next five years–Oli had installed his trusted lieutenants in five positions of the 19 office bearers’ posts up for grabs.
Ishwar Pokhrel is going to become the senior vice-chair now, as Oli had wished. Subas Nembang, who until Sunday night had refused to backtrack on his claim to senior vice-chair, has now settled for the vice-chair post.
Similarly, Shankar Pokhrel, considered by many within the party as Oli’s successor, is set be declared the new general secretary of the party. Bishnu Poudel who was in the fray also yielded to his master Oli to agree for the post of vice-chair.
Oli has also installed Pradeep Gyawali, Prithvi Subba Gurung and Bishnu Rimal as deputy general secretaries. The three posts envisioned by the party statute have been filled unopposed–a victory for Oli.
The other vice-chairs apart from Nembang and Bishnu Poudel proposed by Oli are Asta Laxmi Shakya, Ram Bahadur Thapa, Yubaraj Gyawali and Surendra Pandey. All belong to Oli’s coterie. But since Ghanashyam Bhusal has filed his nomination for the post, voting will take place. The revised statute of the party envisions six vice-chairs.
Similarly, for the seven secretary posts, Oli on late Sunday night proposed leaders close to him—Yogesh Bhattarai, Raghubir Mahaseth, Gokarna Bista, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Chhabilal Bishwakarma, Lekhraj Bhatta and Padma Aryal.
Since Bhim Acharya and Tanka Karki have filed their nominations for the secretary posts, elections have to take place.
Insiders say even though elections will happen, it's certain that everyone proposed by Oli is going to win, which will establish Oli’s grip on the party.
Despite his efforts, Oli, however, may not become an unopposed party chair, as Bhim Rawal is contesting against him.
Voting started late on Monday night, and final results are expected later on Tuesday.
“Voting will begin from 2am and end at 8am,” said Bijay Subba, who heads the party’s central election commission. “It won’t take much time for the results.”
As many as 2,175 representatives from across the country will also vote to elect 301 members for the new Central Committee.
Oli has proposed consensus candidates for the Central Committee as well, but since nominations have been filed by aspirants, there will be voting only in groups where the number of candidates/aspirants is more than the positions on offer.
The UML’s 10th national congress being held in Chitwan, however, has become a farce, observers and insiders say.
Efforts to select the leadership through consensus, which actually translates into “at Oli’s behest”, undermine the democratic process the party has always followed, a leader said.
Political analysts say since the UML’s statute convention, Oli was eyeing a centralised leadership, as he barely cares about morality. According to them, Oli had been in an exercise to have a firm grip on the party in such a way that there won’t be anyone to challenge him.
“Oli now will certainly emerge powerful after the convention with most of his trusted leaders holding the key positions,” said Narayan Dhakal, a left-leaning writer and political commentator. “Oli tried his best to avoid elections. But even after the voting, it is certain that he will control the party as there won’t be anyone to create any trouble for him.”
Dhakal, however, believes the way the UML has selected the leadership won’t do good to the party.
“The UML has abandoned democratic system under Oli,” Dhakal told the Post. “The possible successors in the party are of the ilk of Oli so there is no hope of internal democratic exercises in the future as well.”
In the party’s Central Discipline Commission and Central Accounts Commission also, Oli has managed to install his men. The two commissions will be led by Keshav Badal and Pushpa Kandel, respectively, as no one has challenged them. Both the commissions have 25 members each.
Those close to the establishment say since this convention is a “unity convention”, Oli wanted to avoid elections and select leadership through consensus so as to send across a message of unity.
“Oli did want to avoid polls because he wanted to ensure and strengthen party unity. He did not want factionalism in the party. But since a couple of leaders decided to file nominations, there will be elections,” Gurung, who is set to become one of the deputy general secretaries unopposed, told the Post. “No matter what, no one can question our party chair’s authority now. Now the chairman will lead the party smoothly without any hurdle.”
Those who have opposed Oli’s consensus proposal on the selection of 19 office bearers are Bhim Rawal, Ghanashyam Bhusal, Bhim Acharya and Tanka Karki.
Rawal and Bhusal at one point of time had sided with Madhav Nepal to launch a struggle against Oli in the party. But when Nepal formed the CPN (Unified Socialist), both decided to remain within the UML under Oli.
Some other leaders like Yogesh Bhattarai and Gokarna Bista who too had sided with Nepal but did not desert the UML now have joined Oli’s coterie.
In the name of his consensus proposal, Oli has also managed to placate some former Maoist leaders who have joined the UML.
Oli has adjusted Ram Bahadur Thapa as party vice-chair and Lekharaj Bhatta and Top Bahadur Rayamajhi as party secretaries.
Khagendra Prasain, a political analyst, said the UML’s national convention this time has proved to be a farce.
“You need to discuss ideological issues and programmes besides electing new leadership during the convention. But nothing of that sort happened,” Prasain, an associate professor of political science at Nepal Open University, told the Post. “By repeating the consensus refrain Oli wanted to send across a message that ‘he is the UML’ which could not happen because aspirants have filed nominations and challenged the call. Oli, however, has managed to prove that he is everything in the UML.”
According to Prasain, everyone knows how Oli functions.
“He concentrates power and restricts opposition, competition and elections. These are all signs of fascism,” said Prasain. “It’s sad that the UML, which was known for holding vibrant discussions and followed the principle of collective leadership, has become a party where everything is controlled by one man.”