Analysis

NCP Convention: A genuine way out or another Oli card?

Bindesh Dahal

Bindesh

The bitter dispute in ruling Nepal Communist Party has not ended yet. PM KP Sharma Oli is adamant in clinging to the post while his rivals have been fighting tooth and nail to remove him.

But something unexpected happened in the meeting of the top leaders’ group, namely the Secretariat, on Saturday. Not a single member in the Secretariat asked Oli to resign. The vociferous demand of Oli’s resignation during Standing Committee meetings was not heard in the Secretariat meeting.

What explains this sudden turn of events? Wily Oli is said to have thrown yet another card to save his post in the meeting. Oli admitted that he had taken some wrong steps earlier (issuing ordinances among others) and agreed to self-criticize. He also proposed to call for an early unity Convention of the party that is scheduled for the next year.

Oli wants party Convention to be held in November/December. He seems to have reached at an agreement with co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” for the Convention. Oli must have told Prachanda of his support for the Chairmanship of the party. It means that Oli is seeking a graceful exit from party leadership while keeping the premiership intact at a time when NCP leaders have been demanding Oli’s resignation from both the posts.

Realistically speaking, Prachanda stands no chance of garnering the winning votes for the leadership if Oli does not back him. Senior leaders Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhala Nath Khanal do not have enough backing of the party cadres to propel Prachanda to the helm. Failing to keep Oli in good books means that Prachanda may have to face Oli as an opponent in the Convention, effectively dooming his chances.

This “agreement” between Oli and Prachanda has left Nepal, Khanal and other anti-Oli leaders gasping. Nepal and Khanal in the Saturday meeting said that early Convention was not possible because party unification process is ongoing. They must have rapped Prachanda’s knuckles for giving in to Oli without taking suggestions from them. This must be the reason why his secretariat issued a statement late Saturday clarifying that that there was no agreement between him and Oli.

Today (Sunday) morning the anti-Oli faction met Prachanda at his personal residence in Khumaltar. Prachanda tried to console them by saying that Oli’s call for early Convention is yet another card to cling to power. He is quoted to have said that early Convention is a fresh ploy as party unification process is still ongoing and membership distribution, ideological discussion and many other issues are yet to be addressed.

Even if Prachanda tried to calm the nerves of anti-Oli leaders, it appears that among nine members of the Secretariat only Nepal and Khanal are against Oli’s proposal. Ishwar Pokharel, Ram Bahadur Thapa “Badal” and Bishnu Poudel immediately supported Oli’s proposal. Narayan Kaji Shrestha, anticipating a ministerial berth in the almost certain cabinet reshuffle, is expected to extend his support even if he opposed the proposal in the meeting. Bamdev Gautam had reservations about the proposal but he considered that convention will yield a win-win situation for all.

Oli’s proposal will be floated in the Standing Committee meeting that is set for Tuesday.

CPN-Secretariat

But there are many difficulties in organizing party Convention so early. NCP’s Election Commission Chief Bishnu Pukar Shrestha told Lokaantar‘s Political Correspondent Ishwor Aryal that the party is not ready for the Convention. Central Committee meeting of the party had agreed to tie up all the loose ends in party unification process six months ago but almost nothing has been done. Calling a convention before settling unification issues is not right, he said.

Given many complexities, party Convention does not seem possible in November/December. It may be postponed for a later date, probably the scheduled date in April/May 2021. Therefore, Oli seems to have sown confusion among the rivals by throwing the Convention card. His strategy was to split Prachanda-Nepal-Khanal alliance that was becoming thorny. He seems to have been partially successful in that endeavour.

Given Oli’s history of dishonouring past agreements, Prachanda seems unsure about the latest proposal. But the inability of Oli’s rival faction to march a successful fight too must have disenchanted Prachanda. Either way it appears that Oli is once again successful in saving his post. He has also kept people busy in debating the birthplace of Lord Ram that has shadowed meaningful discussion about the government’s mismanagement.

Published on 19 July 2020

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