POLITICS:No Return

With the division of Nepal Communist Party deeply intensifying, it seems that the crisis is heading towards a point of no return

Feb. 14, 2021, 9:04 a.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 14 No. 12, February 12, 2021 ( Magh 30, 2077) Publisher: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

NCP-Prachanda-Nepal faction leader Pushpakamal Dahal has threatened that forthcoming elections are unacceptable for him and stressed the revival of the dissolved House of Representatives as the only way out.

Despite facing a defamation case in the apex court for his statement against a sub-judice case, Prachanda has been harping on the refrain that he will accept the verdict of a revival of dissolved house.

“Given the current situation, it is impossible to hold the elections in May and the House of Representatives can still provide alternative government, verdict in favor of the dissolution will be politically disastrous,” said Prachanda in his recent public rally.

However, Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, who is also facing a defamation charge for speaking against a sub-judice case, has already made clear that the election is the only way out to settle the political crisis.

“Since the recommendation of the dissolution of House of Representatives is made by a prime minister with two-thirds of majority and there is no possibility to form other alternative government from the existing House of Representatives, there will be elections in May,” said PM Oli.

Since the dissolution of the House of Representatives and filing the petition in the apex court, two factions of ruling NCP have been holding big rallies across the country and conducting orientation training for their cadres.

As both the factions are claiming that their faction represents genuine NCP and Elections Commission has declined to recognize either of the faction as legitimate, ruling NCP is still a unified party in legal terms.

Prime Minister Oli said Prachanda-Nepal-led NCP is merely a bunch of anti-communist movement groups claiming his faction is original NCP with the Sun symbol. “They are a bunch of bad people who are interested in power rather than in serving the interest of party workers and the country,” said Oli, who controls the party office used by unified NCP.

In his statements, Prachanda has been accusing PM Oli as a fake communist and his faction as merely a group of the splinter. “All original communist leaders are with us and we are genuine representatives of original NCP,” thundered Prachada in his recent meeting in Kathmandu.

Despite their claim as the original party, the Election Commission has not recognized either of them. In its recent decision, the EC said that none of the groups applied to split the party, there is only one NCP now. The commission has also made it clear that the election commission cannot split the party.

Encouraged by the decision of the Election Commission, PM Oli’s group holds the view that EC favors them. In legal terms, PM Oli is elected chairman of the party and only a general convention can replace his leadership.

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Although both the parties hold the view that the dissolution of the House of Representatives is unconstitutional, Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party have declined to launch a joint struggle against the Oli-led government and side with Prachanda and Nepal faction.

Coming Scenario

As the hearing of the constitution in the five-member constitutional bench of the apex court continues for almost a month, it is unlikely that the court will deliver the verdict before first week of March given the lengthy procedure and complexity of the constitutional issue involved in it.

Although there is a constitutional provision under which the prime minister can recommend the dissolution following two months, there is a wide opposition against the constitutional moves.

Except for Nepali Congress and Janta Samajbadi Party, which have publicly said that they will accept the verdict of the court, NCP factions and a group of civil society members, who were part of the current change under 12 points agreement, have reservations over the court’s decision.

Even four former Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, who are now facing a defamation case in the court are speaking on a petition which is in the hearing of the court, have openly challenged the dissolution order.

Given the stand taken by Prachanda-Nepal-led factions, civil society and others, any decision, whether to restore the house or accept the election, will likely face resistance.

Following the dissolution of the House of Representatives, there is a vertical split in the NCP. This has also divided the top ranks as well. Speaker of House of Representatives and vice president back Prachanda-Nepal faction and they regard chairman of National Assembly and President are pro-Oli.

Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota, a staunch Maoist, who filed a case against the recently appointed heads and members of Constitutional bodies, has already indicated that he even does not bother to call the session of the dissolved house to oust PM Oli.

In his petition to Supreme Court, Speaker Sapkota has said that all the actions of the prime minister and the president are against the spirit of the constitution and mandate of the people.

Vice President Nanda Kishore Pun has already expressed his displeasure over the president absenting from the public functions held in President’s Office recently. All these indicate that the scenario looks bleak.

The possible outlook

Various scenarios are likely to occur following the court verdict. However, the future will be directed by politics rather than justice and judicial procedures. After the verdict of the court, the court will have to bear all the shock.

If the constitutional bench interprets the constitution favoring dissolution, a big bunch of civil society members, part of the politics of change of 2006-07 and Prachanda-Nepal led NCP, will likely rebel with agitation to overthrow PM KP. Sharma Oli, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and others.

Dr. Govinda K.C-led civil society group which includes former finance minister Dr. Devendra Raj Pandey, former speaker Daman Nath Dhungana and others, will call for agitation along lines of Nepal Communist Party Prachanda and Nepal faction.

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Former speaker Dhungana is also facing a defamation case in the Supreme Court for his recent controversial statement that people will reject the decision of the court in favor of elections.

Although Nepali Congress and Janata Samajbadi Party officials said that they will abide by the verdict of the court, they will also face a dilemma. At a time when a faction in NC and Janata Samajbadi Party is calling for people’s movement against Oli led faction, they will likely see a split. Dr. Baburam Bhattarai is currently against the decision of the establishment not to join the Prachada-Nepal faction. Ram Chandra Poudel and Krishna Prasad Sitaula are pressing NC to side with Prachanda-Nepal.

If what speaker Sapktoa has already indicated in saying that he will not mind summoning the Dissolved House of Representatives to oust PM Oli happens, Sapkota-chaired House of Representatives can take any decision including removing President and installing Vice President as acting president. This way there will be a major constitutional breakdown.

Second scenario

If the court revives the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Oli will still be the leader of the party and he is responsible to summon the house. Until other factions oust him from parliamentary leadership and party chair, Oli will be the legitimate leader.

In case PM Oli delays the session, it is likely, Sapkota will use his unconstitutional power of summoning the house and removing Prime Minister Oli. “Parliament is a sovereign body and represents the collective sovereignty of people. The Prime Minister cannot dissolve it without its consent. This House of Representatives is different from the previous one,” said speaker Sapkota.

In this case, PM Oli’s supporters will definitely call a stir as Prachanda and Nepal group would do in case of elections. Given the current resentment expressed against the president and Chief Justice, the Prachanda-Nepal faction may register an impeachment motion against them. To prevent this situation, PM Oli will take his decision.

The current tripartite struggle among two factions of the Nepal Communist Party-backed by a section of civil society with tacit support from a section of leaders of Nepali Congress and Janata Smajbadi Nepal Party will further create constitutional chaos and disorder.

Safe Landing

The division in ruling Nepal Communist Party-NCP has already intensified up to the province and grass root level and it looks the unity is impossible. However, politics is a game of possibility and nothing can be ruled out.

CPN-UML unified following almost five years of the split. CPN-UML and Maoist Party, die-hard rivals of the communist movement in Nepal, merged to become one and secured a two-thirds majority defeating Nepali Congress badly in the last elections. Nepali Congress split and later unified and became one party.

Nepal’s political history is full of strange and unbelievable alliances and rivalries. Starting from BP Koirala and Matrika Koirala, two brothers, the current bitter rivalry between Oli and Prachanda-Nepal is not new. In a similar way, one cannot rule out the possibility of the unity of two factions again, blaming the outside forces or regressive group, for their disunity.

Such unity of the two factions will be a better way out to avoid a major breakdown of the constitution and political order. In case, it goes out of hand and civil society and internal political forces are taking one side against the other, Nepal will need to seek a neutral force from outside to mediate the stalemate.

Former minister and Prachanda-Nepal faction leader Ghanashyam Bhusal have already predicted the future political scenario with the possibility of the involvement of a neutral third party in mediation.

“Coming few weeks are very dangerous in Nepali politics. Our future will be more difficult in case PM Oli continues in power,” said Bhusal addressing the party meeting in Jhapa.

Under the present scenario, every coming move looks dangerous and the politics will likely see a hard landing. In that situation, everything is possible including the breakdown of constitutional order.

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