Editorial

Split in the middle: on Nepal's political crisis

The political crisis triggered by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s decision to dissolve Nepal’s Parliament and call fresh elections led to a vertical split in the ruling party, with the rival faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ sacking Mr. Oli from its general membership. The Prachanda faction of the Nepal Communist Party had removed Mr. Oli as the party’s chairman earlier. It had issued a notice to him seeking an explanation for his decision to recommend Parliament’s dissolution, to which he did not respond. Following this, the central committee of the Prachanda bloc met on Sunday and decided to expel Mr. Oli. His aides have rejected this, saying their leader remains the PM. This puts Nepal and its fractious communist movement in limbo. Mr. Oli has claimed that he represents the party, while Mr. Prachanda and Madhav Kumar Nepal, a former PM and leader of Mr. Oli’s erstwhile Communist Party of Nepal (UML), have ruled out any future compromise with the PM. The constitutional validity of the decision to dissolve Parliament is being reviewed by the Supreme Court. Also, the Election Commission will decide which faction could retain the party’s name and symbol, the Sun. These decisions will have a lasting impact on which side would emerge stronger.

Mr. Oli was elected PM in February 2018 after his CPN-UML fought the 2017 general election in an alliance with the Maoists. Within months of coming to power, the CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre of Prachanda merged to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which gave him nearly two-thirds majority in Parliament. But the pre-election unity did not last long. When the government was formed, the tacit understanding between the CPN-UML and the Maoists was that Mr. Oli and Mr. Prachanda would share the five-year term. But Mr. Oli refused to step down after two and a half years, pushing the NCP into a bitter intra-party feud. The widening rift was not along the former UML-Maoist ideological lines. Rather, Mr. Oli’s authoritarian style of governance and refusal to share power led to an erosion of support for the PM in the top echelons of the ruling party. To overcome his own weakness within the party and deny his rivals power, he dissolved Parliament. It is a typical case of greed for power and personality clashes trumping over the greater interests of a party, a government or a nation. When they formed a united front, it was a historic opportunity for Nepal’s otherwise divided communists to script a brighter future for the fledgling republican democracy. But in three years, Nepal is in chaos — Parliament has been dissolved, the PM has been sacked from the ruling party, and the party is split down the middle. Mr. Oli cannot escape responsibility for the crisis Nepal is in today.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 11:02:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/split-in-the-middle/article33662253.ece

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