Candidacy row proving costly for UMLGhanashyam Bhusal quits party and Bhim Rawal weighs his move. Vice-chair Shakya rejects candidacy offer.
Candidate-selection for the November polls has stirred up a storm in the CPN-UML as many prominent leaders are now riled and leaders at the centre as well as local levels have either quit the party or resigned from their posts to protest against the party leadership’s decision.
Some key leaders including office bearers have decided not to contest the upcoming polls even though their names had been agreed upon.
Party Standing Committee member Ghanashyam Bhusal, who is widely regarded as the UML’s key ideologue, announced on Saturday that he was quitting the party.
Bhusal—a leader with a huge youth following—wrote on Facebook that he had decided to quit after concluding that he couldn’t be “sincere to the [communist] movement and myself under the current leadership”.
“Now the party has been held hostage by comrade KP Sharma Oli’s arrogance and arbitrary rules. It is known to all that despite facing disrespect and discrimination within the party, I struggled hard with the hope and belief that we could one day regain the UML’s lost glory,” Bhusal said in his post on Saturday afternoon.
He has claimed that the party was being misled under Oli’s chairmanship.
Bhusal is now planning to contest the election as an independent candidate from Rupandehi-1.
The general elections are expected to witness a fierce competition between the two electoral alliances—one led by the Nepali Congress, the other by UML.
The UML has already sealed an electoral deal with Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal. Rastriya Prajatantra Party has also partnered with the UML in some constituencies for the upcoming polls.
On the other hand, the alliance led by Nepali Congress has the Maoist Centre, the Unified Socialist and Rastriya Janamorcha as partners. Loktantrik Samajbadi Party has also become a part of the alliance after it secured a deal with the Congress.
Even though Oli had recommended vice-chair Asta Laxmi Shakya for Kathmandu-8, she decided not to contest the elections this time. Oli repeatedly requested Shakya to be the party’s candidate from the constituency but Shakya declined.
Shakya won the 2017 provincial elections from a Kathmandu constituency. Later she became the chief minister of Bagmati Province after changes in the first provincial government.
Another key leader of the party, Bhim Rawal, is also riled after the UML decided to field Jhapat Bohora—who recently joined the party by quitting the Maoist Centre—in his place. Rawal was unanimously recommended by the party committee of Achham-1. He is said to be mulling his next step.
After Rawal was denied candidacy, UML Regional Coordination Committee chief Prakash Shah resigned from his post. Shah wrote to inform the party chair about his decision.
The secretary of the UML Morang District Committee also resigned citing discontent over the selection of candidates, which, he said, was done by violating the party’s policies, principles, and practices.
Observers say these developments hint at the dangers the party could face in the coming days. According to them, the UML is taking regressive steps, sidelining its own leaders for others.
“It indicates that the UML is devoid of internal democracy. All powers are centralised on a single leader who decides other candidates’ fates,” said Rajendra Maharjan, a political analyst. According to him, Oli’s steps threaten internal democracy in the party as well as the country’s overall democracy.
Hari Roka, another political analyst, said sidelining prominent leaders with decades of contributions to the party is a regressive and counter-revolutionary step.
“Oli has now proven that his continuing as UML chairman could invite more trouble into the party,” Roka said.
The resignation of key leaders and the dissatisfaction expressed by prominent leaders will spell a serious setback for the party, harming its electoral prospects too, observers say.
“The unnatural and regressive alliance with the Rastriya Prajatantra Party will not augur well for the party in the long run,” Maharjan said. “The practice of sidelining leaders who have dedicated their lives to the party and giving tickets to lesser leaders is a dangerously monopolistic practice.”
Bishal Bhattarai, the UML chief whip, said Bhusal was denied the party ticket as he did not raise people’s voices in Parliament. Bhattarai, however, said Rawal should have got the ticket as he had done a lot for his constituency.
Bhattarai said the process of joining and leaving a political party is natural. “Bhusal should not have quit the party soon after being denied a ticket,” he said. “Was he in the party just to be an election candidate? His decision is ill-timed.”