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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 2, New Delhi, December 26 2020

Factional Feud in Ruling Communist Party Lands Nepal in a Political Crisis | Barun Das Gupta

Saturday 26 December 2020, by Barun Das Gupta

The unending feud in the two factions of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) has landed the country in a first class political crisis. Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli, who lost majority in the House of Representatives or the lower House of Parliament did not resign, as is the practice in a parliamentary democracy, but prevailed upon an obliging President to dissolve Parliament instead. General election was due in 2022 but now it has been advanced to April 30 and May 10 net year.

When monarchy was abolished in Nepal on May 28, 2008, the first job of the political parties was to draw up a secular democratic constitution for the country. But the multiplicity of political parties and their disunity delayed constitution-making. Several Governments succeeded one another, but the possibility of drafting a constitution remained as elusive as ever There were two Communist Parties – the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre). Together, they got majority or near-majority in Parliament but the two parties were at daggers drawn. Ultimately, the realization dawned on them that uniting the two parties into one party was the only way out to give Nepal political stability and a new constitution.

Ultimately, on May 17, 2015, the two parties united to form the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN). But it was soon as clear as daylight that the so-called unity was an opportunist unity, a mechanical unity rather than an organic one. In the united party the two constituent parties made a strange phenomenon. There were two distinct and separate streams flowing parallelly in the same river, One stream was led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, and the other stream was led by Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli. Each faction carried the legacy of the bitter enmity of the past. Now things have come to a boil and the two parties are about to part ways, formalizing a split.

Oli has been demonstrably pro-China and anti-India. It was he who embittered the relationship between India and Nepal by unilaterally re-drawing Nepal’s map showing Indian territories of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as Nepali territory and post haste got the new map approved by Nepal Parliament. Many believe that there was Chinese hand behind Nepal’s cartographic war against India.

China has been directly interfering in the internal politics of Nepal. Hou Yanqi, the Chinese ambassador has been openly trying to broker a peace between the two factions of the NCP, throwing to the winds all diplomatic propriety and protocol. But she failed in her mission. Prachanda has been critical of Prime Minister Oli for a number of his policies, including his policy toward India and the manifestly pro-China tilt in his foreign policy. Prachanda is against unnecessarily antagonizing India. He wants a nuanced policy to Nepal’s two big neighbours, India and China.

A bitter politico-ideological war is currently being waged by the two factions of the NCP. A full meeting of the party’s Central Committee could not be held for a long time because of the raging political feud within the party. At one stage it was decided that the Prime Minister would have a free hand in the day-to-day running of the Government, while Prachanda will be in executive control of the party and run the party as per the recommendation of the six-member task force. But Matrika Prasad Yadav, a member of the party’s Standing Committee, insisted that the feud within the party was about ideology and policies and not about “who gets what position” in the party. So the politico-ideological war in the party, which many believe is an extension of the personal incompatibility of Oli and Prachanda, has brought the Nepal Communist Party on the verge of a split and landed the country in political turmoil.

Meanwhile, Oli’s controversial decision to dissolve Parliament has been challenged before the Supreme Court of Nepal. Seven ministers in his government have also resigned calling the dissolution a “constitutional coup” because it violates the popular mandate given him in the last general elections. The three petitions challenging the dissolution are being registered, according to the apex court spokesman Bhadrakali Pokharel.

As related above the root of the factional war in the CPN has to be found in the process of formation of the party. Before its formation on May 17, 2015, there were two communist parties; one the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), while the other was the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre). Before merger, they were at daggers drawn. There used to be frequent armed clashes between, sometimes ending in fatalities.

It is doubtful if the coming elections will be able to usher in a stable government. The people are fed up with the internecine quarrels of the two factions of the CPN. As things stand, they will be at each other’s throat during the poll campaign. In the dissolved House, the CPN had 174 MPs while the Nepali Congress had 67. It remains to be seen whether this time the Nepali Congress is able to get wider support of the people who are disgusted with the endless feuding in the CPN. It may be recalled that the Nepali Congress fully supported the new map of Nepal prepared by the Oli Government, showing three regions of India as Nepal territory.

India and China will, of course, keenly watch the situation in Nepal and remain active behind the scene, because Nepal has now become an important player in South-East Asian politics, the main feature of which is the intense rivalry between India and China.

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