Print Edition - 2018-12-31  |  2018 The Year of Promises

Revolution within the communist party

- TIKA R PRADHAN

Dec 31, 2018-

It was a rare incident in 21st-century world politics that a communist party got hold of the state machinery through a democratic exercise in Nepal last year.

Exactly 200 years after Karl Marx, who drafted the Communist Manifesto to explain the goals of communism, liberal communists in Nepal took charge of the state affairs for at least five years via competitive politics.

The unification between the erstwhile CPN-UML and the CPN (Maoist Centre) to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) was a momentous event in Nepal’s political history. This was the first time that two major communist parties united to form a single bloc and installed through popular vote what may be the “most stable government” in the last seven decades.“Such incidents also happened last century but through violent means,” says Yogesh Bhattarai, an NCP Standing Committee member.

When the Maoists and the Marxists-Leninists declared an electoral alliance in October last year, it surprised many initially. The idea of the two communist streams converging for an ultimate merger was something “unimaginable” given the history of fragmentation of Nepali communists. “It was a historic event that ended the era of fragmented politics in the country,” said Jhalak Subedi, a political analyst.

However, cracks have appeared in the unified communist party less than a year later. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who until last year had a powerful grip on the Unified Marxist Leninist party, started losing his hold soon after the unification with the Maoist Centre last May.

Oli ’s role as the NCP co-chairman and the prime minister has been increasingly questioned by senior party leaders, some of whom have accused him of slashing the core leadership to a small faction, failing to govern effectively, and displaying authoritarian tendencies. Some of the party’s senior-most 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 arch-rival, has seen ups and downs in recent times while Jhala Nath Khanal was left dejected ever since Oli put him after Nepal in the party hierarchy.

More NCP leaders are questioning the widening rift in the party and the weak performance of the government commanding a two-thirds majority. A majority of them are miffed at the party leadership, especially Oli. This was evident in the Standing Committee meeting where a majority of leaders remained critical of the Oli government and his leadership.

Leader Surendra Pandey charged the chairmen at the Standing Committee meeting with centralising power on a few leaders in the name of core leadership—the nine-member party secretariat. According to Pandey, the secretariat should not be made the ultimate power centre.

Party Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha was harsher when he accused the Oli government of working at the behest of crony capitalists. He claimed that corruption has thrived since the NCP took the reins of power.

Many leaders said the controversial hosting of the Asia Pacific Summit by the government and the presence of the top leadership, mainly Oli and senior leader Nepal, in the event embarrassed them. They have asked the party leadership to make amends through self-criticism.

On the organisational front, the NCP is struggling as the unification of lower committees is far from over. While announcing the merger, the party had promised to complete the unification process by August. 

The NCP has yet to constitute its politburo and form unified district, local and ward committees. Leaders have to be selected for the 32 departments, provincial coordination committees, and sister wings, among other bodies.

The two chiefs have promised to complete all the pending works of unification within a month from now. Since the district committees are the most disputed organs, leaders are not convinced that the unification process will complete anytime soon.

How the power equation within the NCP changes will be interesting to watch. Despite the pressure, Oli still dominates party affairs as the other chairman, Dahal, remains by his side.

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

Published: 31-12-2018 09:22

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