There is no consensus yet within the ruling Nepal Communist Party over the U.S.-backed Millennium Challenge Corporation, a member of the important Standing Committee of the party said on Saturday. Several issues including the MCC are pending before the Committee as sources in the ruling party suggest serious differences between Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli and Co-Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ are responsible for the deadlock.
“The government of Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli has declared that it will push for acceptance of MCC but there is no consensus on it inside the Standing Committee so far. The discussion is likely to continue for a few more days till we reach a conclusion,” said Standing Committee member Raghuji Pant who spoke from Kathmandu over telephone. The ongoing meeting is particularly important as it coincided with the telephone conversation between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali.
Concerns over sovereignty
The Pompeo-Gyawali conversation highlighted the global pandemic but the timing of the call indicated at the concern of the U.S. about the uncertainties around the MCC which remains stuck due to opposition from sections of the NCP that believe that Nepal should seek amendments as it is viewed as an American move to draw Kathmandu into the Indo-Pacific grouping consisting of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. Under the MCC, Nepal is to get $500 million in grant for developmental work but concerns over sovereignty and apparent pressure from competing foreign interests have held the project behind.
It is generally understood among the informed sources in the Oli government that the opposition to MCC is stronger from certain NCP members who are part of the Prachanda faction. This resistance indirectly also indicates at the tussle for domination between the populist Prime Minister and Mr. Prachanda who is a formidable challenger as his faction is considered more powerful in the NCP Standing Committee.
The differences between the two camps have surprised the Nepalese political class which put up a joint front earlier this month when Parliament passed the political map which included Indian territory in Uttarakhand. Sources inside the NCP said the map and the plans to fortify Nepal’s borders with India have made Prime Minister Oli more popular. That however has not eroded the power that Mr. Prachanda wields inside the NCP which is factionally divided into two camps. There are also signs that Mr. Prachanda can strike a deal with chief Opposition Nepali Congress and leaders from the plains to throw a direct challenge to Mr. Oli.
Prachanda’s “weakness is his past”
Mr. Prachanda’s critics say his weakness is his past as a rebel leader during Nepal’s decade-long civil war when thousands were massacred as the Maoist rebels clashed against the royal government.
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In January this year, he created ripples among the followers of Nepalese affairs by frankly admitting that he can be held accountable for 5,000 of an approximately 17,000 insurgency-related casualties during the decade of civil war from mid-1990s till 2005-06.
While Mr. Oli’s main target is to complete his term which will end in 2022, the younger Prachanda will have to deal with his past which apart from human rights abuse as the rebel leader also includes allegations of financial misdeeds.