Is Oli losing his grip on the unified party?

- TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu

Dec 19, 2018-

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who until last year had a powerful grip on the Unified Marxist Leninist Communist Party, is gradually losing his hold following its unification with the Maoist Centre last May.

Some of the party’s most senior leaders, including Bamdev Gautam who helped Oli climb to the top position in the former UML, are now among his most vocal critics. Oli’s relationship with Madhav Kumar Nepal, who has long remained an arch-rival, has seen ups and downs in recent times while Jhala Nath Khanal has been left dejected ever since Oli put him after Nepal in the party hierarchy.

During the party’s ongoing Standing Committee meeting, Gautam lambasted at the prime minister and the party chair—both positions held by Oli—in a 16-page dissent.

In his criticism of Oli, Gautam has demanded that Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal be allowed to lead the party solely while the premier minds the government. Gautam, who drifted towards Dahal over time, maintains close relations with the former rebel leader.

 

Nine of the ten Standing Committee members who spoke at the party meeting on Monday stood against the prime minister and his activities while almost half of the eight leaders who spoke on Tuesday were against him.

Oli’s popularity, which grew in his first innings at Singha Durbar three years ago mainly due to his firm stance against the Indian blockade, has been on the wane since he took office for the second time. He 

has been criticised for relying more on his coterie, completely sidelining party leaders who’re vocal against him as well as his consolidation of power.

Oli has also left the party leaders currently leading six provinces as chief ministers in trouble by not providing essential resources and laws on time. 

Although the chief ministers have not criticised him publicly, many have expressed unhappiness at the way he handles the administration. “I’d rather not speak for the fear of inviting more conflict in the party,” a chief minister said in an interview withthe Post.

Even some of the ministers in the current administration say they are afraid of raising contentious issues with the prime minister. They’ve resorted to passing their grievances against Oli to other Standing Committee members. In his document, Gautam has incorporated the complaints of some of the ministers.

Ghanashyam Bhusal, former deputy general secretary of the erstwhile CPN-UML, has said he won’t accept Oli as his chairman if he continued to target certain leaders who criticise his “irrational” 

activities.

Another leader Yogesh Bhattarai followed suit in Tuesday’s meeting, urging Oli to correct his “substandard” document and to run the party apparatus based on a system rather than monopolising it.

“It’s obvious that Oli has been losing his grip as leaders from the former UML are questioning his performance and intent while those from the former Maoist [Centre] have remained silent,” said Jhalak Subedi, a political analyst.

“When the entire party merges with another, power dynamics automatically changes, but Oli will remain strong in the NCP as long as he gets the support of Pushpa Kamal Dahal.”

In the 45-member NCP Standing Committee, Dahal has a majority with at least 19 members while Madhav Nepal and Oli have the support of around a dozen members each. With the infighting among the former UML leaders, the one leader to gain strength is Dahal, whom many see as Oli’s successor. 

“Dahal will be the ultimate beneficiary if Oli continues to become weaker,” said Mani Thapa, a Standing Committee member.

However, Subedi says the power play will remain until the party holds the unity general convention.

Published: 19-12-2018 06:24

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