Nearly a year and half into the mega-communist merger, there seems to be no end to factionalism in the Nepal Communist Party.
Unfortunately, the message of growing factionalism is not good for the party or the country. People voted for the Nepal Communist Party with expectation of change in the country and in their daily life. Factional feuds have betrayed their trust and affected both party and government functioning.
Why so many factions?
It is difficult to say why factions thrive in political parties. However, there is a tendency in all political parties not to accommodate all leaders and cadres. People who are leading the party are guided by personal interests. Party leadership often prefer to confine themselves to a certain circle of leaders. Certain people influence overall politics. That is why factionalism flourishes.
Will it be right to say that the process of the merger is still incomplete and that there are clear UML and Maoist lines in the party?
The situation is quite different. It seems that there could be consensus between former Maoist and UML on power sharing, from center to grass-roots. It would not be difficult to bridge the gap between the two and we have already settled several issues. The agreement between two parties before the unification is being implemented. More worrying are sub-factions within factions and exploiting those sub-factions to get to power in the government and the party. There is a tendency of putting pressure on leadership on the basis of factional power and position. Leaders from both former UML and Maoist parties engage in such behavior. This could sideline emerging and capable leaders as people from certain factions are likely to be elevated in party and government.
What about the power-sharing deal between Prime Minister Oli and Chairman Dahal? Is that settled for now?
Though late, this issue has been settled and it should be taken positively. The principle of one man one post has been implemented. This principle should be implemented in all structures and it has started from top leadership. Allocation of powers between two parties has helped speed up party works.
Can we say that in party affairs Oli functions like a ceremonial chair while Dahal enjoys executive rights?
I would not put it like that. When we arranged for two chairmen, there was no mention of ceremonial and executive chairman. There was no clear demarcation of authority between the two chairs. Both chairmen are executive but the nature of work and allocation of responsibilities differ. Now, Prachanda will help the prime minister to make government functioning effective, while PM Oli will help Prachanda make with party-related works.
How long will this arrangement hold?
This will be valid till another decision is made. We are planning our General Convention in a year’s time. It would be better if current agreement continues till the convention. But we cannot say anything about the convention’s outcome.
There is still lack of clarity about selection of party leader from general convention. Will it be as per the power sharing agreement between Oli and Prachanda, or there will be free competition? Will Oli help Prachanda be party leader?
I think there will be consensus between the two leaders. The party cannot progress without managing the unification between two parties and the existence of sub-factions. Only the electoral process cannot ensure representation of all capable leaders and cadres. Therefore the first convention of the united party will be held on the basis of consensual democratic process.
Are you suggesting that Oli should help Dahal be the sole party chairman in the next general convention?
We are hopeful that this happens. To make the party more united and dynamic, Prachanda needs to be elected chairman from the convention floor. But it does not mean Oli’s role in the party would be minimized because he is an elected party chair. The only option is drawing a clear line between the roles and responsibilities of PM Oli and Prachanda.
PM’s health condition is badly affecting government functioning, isn’t it?
Cabinet meetings have been held solely due to the strong willpower of the prime minister. Right now all we hope for is speedy recovery of PM Oli.
Now is it settled that Dahal will not stake his claim for prime minister?
The party has entered a new chapter with the agreement between PM Oli and Prachanda about the allocation of responsibilities. Therefore, till the next decision, Oli will remain the prime minister and Prachanda the party’s executive head.
You say there are no power-sharing disputes between former UML and Maoists. What about over the election of new Speaker?
There have been intensive discussions in the party over this. The President has already summoned the House and we will take a decision soon. Decision will be taken through consensus between Prachanda and Oli.
Will a former Maoist or UML leader get the coveted post?
This is also a part of the larger power sharing agreement reached between Oli and Prachanda. So, obviously, the Speaker falls in the Maoist party. But there is also a school of thought that decisions should not be taken on the basis of former divisions but rather based on the basis of merit and contribution to the party. But without them responsibility, how can a person prove his or her capability? Some leaders have multiple responsibilities while others are being deprived of even a single responsibility.
There are reports that former Maoists are holding a series of meetings and have decided to put pressure on Oli to secure the position of Speaker for themselves.
The spirit of party unification should be kept intact. We have forwarded such views as a suggestion to PM Oli but not as a pressure tactic.
So former Maoists will get the speaker for sure?
The majority of party leaders and cadres think so. There has been no discussion on specific individuals. This is not a difficult issue. The two chairmen can immediately settle it.
How do you evaluate the government’s performance?
Performance of both party and government has been dismal. They have failed to meet people’s expectation. The past one year was totally wasted. The Standing Committee meeting has taken place after one year. Hopefully things will now change.
The political document presented at the Standing Committee talks about the growing tussle between the Belt and Road Initiative and the Indo-Pacific Strategy. Could you please elaborate?
We have mentioned two things. First, we have emphasized the principles of Panchasheel and continued importance of non-alignment for Nepal. There is rivalry among big powers. Now, the BRI and the IPS have emerged. The BRI, launched in 2013, is focused on human development, physical development, and bridging the mental divides. The US fears losing its influence in Asia if the BRI succeeds. That is why the US came with the IPS last year. Though IPS America seems to be pushing military-type activities. We should not engage in them. The IPS tries to dictate our relationship with India. The main leader of the Millennium Challenge Cooperation (MCC) compact is the US but Nepal and India will have to implement it. If it is a matter between Nepal and India, there is need to sign a contract with the US. It rather suggests the US wants to increase its influence in Nepal. If we are not cautious, it could affect our sovereignty.