It’s wrong to say former UML and Maoist factions remain intact in the ruling Nepal Communist Party. These old factions are in fact losing their salience as new ones develop. Right now, the tussle is between a faction under Prime Minister KP Oli and an emergent one of Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal. This was expected. The party has, as a whole, been copping the blame for PM Oli’s governance failure, be in corona-control, medical education reform, economic development, or implementation of federalism.
Despite these failures, the party would still be more united were it not for PM Oli’s unilateral ways. For instance, he reshuffled the cabinet earlier this fortnight with little consultation with Dahal and Nepal, and once again packed vital ministries with his cronies. The appointment of Bishnu Poudel, someone implicated in a widely reported land scam, as the finance minister was galling. The new bone of contention is PM Oli’s diktat to provincial NCP parliamentarians for the removal of Karnali Province Chief Minister Mahendra Bahadur Shahi. The attempt was foiled when leaders Dahal and Nepal instructed the Karnali MPs close to them to reject the no-confidence motion tabled against Shahi.
The prime minister’s direct orders to provincial MPs for Shahi’s removal belie the spirit of federalism. And it was another instance of PM Oli’s attempt to bend the party to his will. The latest ructions in the NCP, coming right on the eve of Dashain, again indicate the difficulties of a rather unnatural marriage between communism and democracy. The prime minister would like to run the NCP as a top-down communist party, but he cannot. This is because he shares party chairmanship with Dahal and internal democracy is enshrined in party charter. The prime minister’s alienation of senior party leaders and his failure to govern during a national medical emergency are not signs of a stable polity.
PM Oli’s repeated attempts to prolong his tenure not by the dint of his service to the country but through internal party machinations will be costly for Nepal. If nothing else, our government head will continue to be consumed with internal party dynamics when all his attention should be on tackling one of the biggest calamities the country has ever faced.