Nepal Communist Party heading for split; meet to decide PM Oli's fate deferred
Nepal Communist Party (NCP), the ruling political party in the Himalayan nation, which commands 174 of the 275 seats in the House of Representatives, seems headed for a split, with differences between senior leaders of the party getting sharper. A key meeting of the party's Standing Committee today, which was to decide the fate of K.P. Sharma Oli, co-chair of the party and prime minister of the country, was shelved for Monday, in a bid to let the leaders settle out their differences.
The meeting was cancelled at the last moment.
"Our PM is moving towards splitting the party, this is a very hard time for us,'' said a senior functionary of the NCP. With the imminent splitting of the leading political party, Nepal seems headed for political chaos once again. Otherwise, with the kind of majority it had, the party could have completed its term comfortably.
There is much resentment building up against Oli within the party. The tipping point has been his comments that India was hatching a plot to oust him. He has accused some Nepali leaders also of being involved in the plot, alluding to various kinds of activities in "embassies and hotels''. He said these moves had begun after he had changed the map of Nepal to include territory in dispute with India—Kalapani, Limpiyudhara and Lipulekh.
Although the legislation to legitimise the map was passed with the support of all political parties—it was a fiercely nationalistic issue—senior NCP leaders are embarrassed by Oli's subsequent utterances.
They have termed his claims baseless and violative of diplomatic decorum and have demanded proof to substantiate the allegations. Oli, according to some senior party leaders, is "mentally, physically and ideologically unfit'' to serve in both capacities.
India has kept a diplomatic silence on the Nepal prime minister's allegations. MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava did not respond to queries at his weekly briefing on Thursday, instead, he said that "India and Nepal have age-old civilisational ties of friendship, rooted as they are in deep cultural and social linkages. We remain committed towards continuously strengthening these ties.''
The anti-Oli faction is led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who is also co-chair of the party. Another former prime minister, Madhav Nepal, too is against Oli. Oli's unilateral way of functioning has come under fire, and the meeting, now scheduled for Monday might decide various issues—whether Oli has to give up one post, be it the PM chair or the party chair, and whether the party itself will split.
Oli, it is reported, is not in the mood for relinquishing any post. Prachanda, a strong advocate of the one-person-one-post approach, he had a meeting with Oli on Friday, but failed to agree on a course of action. There was an unofficial understanding between the two in 2018 for power-sharing, with each person being prime minister for half the elected term of the parliament. Last November though, there was another understanding that Oli would remain PM, while Dahal would lead the party. Dahal now reportedly feels that since Oli did not keep up the spirit of the November agreement, he should step down.
The prime minister's decision to unilaterally prorogue the budget session of the parliament on Thursday has further irked senior leadership. The smart move allowed Oli to escape a floor test. It also gives him the opportunity to reintroduce an ordinance that will make possible a split in the party. The ordinance, which says that a new political party can be formed with 40 per cent support of members, either in the parliamentary party or the party central committee.
Observers say that China is keen to see Oli in power till the end of the parliament's five-year term in 2023. Meanwhile, Pakistan has also decided to extend support to Oli, with Imran Khan reportedly reaching out to him. Oli doesn't just wear his anti-India sentiments on his sleeve. He actually uses it to drum up nationalistic fervour and cleverly detract attention from other problems in the country.
Right now, Nepal is facing the pandemic crisis, and there are allegations of misgovernance. Oli tried to put the blame of the pandemic on India, saying that a majority of the cases in Nepal were of Indian origin. However, given that these cases were of Nepali citizens, who returned home with the permission of the government (because of lockdowns, borders were closed at both ends), this claim did little to sway the public ire.
The latest tally of positive COVID-19 cases in Nepal is over 15,000. A huge number for a country with limited infrastructure, even though it has recently been upgraded by the World Bank to a Lower middle-income economy from the previous lower-income category.