The week-long Nepal Communist Party Central Committee meeting that kicked off in Kathmandu on January 29 was overdue. The party statute provisions for the CC meeting every six months. But the ongoing meeting is only the second since the formal unification of the two largest communist forces in the country some 20 months ago. On paper, the 441-member Central Committee is the party’s second most powerful decision-making body, after only the General Convention. Yet the committee was virtually defunct as the two NCP chairmen, among them, made nearly all important decisions. What they could not agree on, they got done via the nine-member Secretariat.
The Central Committee plays a vital role in strengthening the party organization and in energizing the grassroots. But the NCP Central Committee could not convene, first, because the two chairmen and the Secretariat did not consider it necessary. Second, the former UML and Maoist members could not settle their differences. Twenty-long-months after the formal unification, the NCP is still a divided house. One notable division is over the American MCC accord, which is sure to create a stir in the Central Committee meeting too. The ex-UML leaders, for instance, are more amenable to the accord’s parliamentary endorsement than are the ex-Maoists.
It will be interesting to see how such ideological debates play out on the CC floor. Another big ideological debate concerns whether the new party has gone too far down the capitalist road and whether the time has come to rein in the excesses of its senior leaders. Maintaining party control over the functioning of the federal government, which is widely seen as underperforming, will be another area of focus.
Perhaps the leaders and cadres of the newly minted NCP can take comfort as the main opposition, Nepali Congress, is arguably even more divided and chaotic, and the NCP has no serious electoral challenger on the horizon. But that isn’t saying much. The CC meeting would have achieved a lot if it can send out a clearer message of unity, an assurance that the bitter divisions between the UML and Maoist parties of the yore have been narrowed if not bridged altogether. (Announcement of the ‘Unity General Convention’ for April 7-12, 2020 could be step in that direction.) In that case, many other issues will sort themselves out for the political behemoth with 800,000 active members.