What Is Brewing Inside CPN?
Ritu Raj Subedi
As the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN)-led government marks one year in office, the ruling party has passed through some unusual developments marked by factionalism, ideological shift and anti-government polemics. In the words of party chair and Prime Minister KP Oli himself, there have been oodles of unrestricted attempts to create troubles within the party. He was indicating a factional meeting involving senior five leaders at Jhamsikhel that had roasted Oli over his handling of both government and the party. The meeting of the dissident leaders, including co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda naturally ruffled the feathers of PM Oli poised to lead the strong government for full five-year term. The grapevine has it that PM Oli quipped with Prachanda: “You would have discussed about removing me from office, wouldn’t it?” “No, no, this issue did not figure in the meeting,” replied Prachanda. The cabal of party stalwarts held their secret gathering when Oli was in Davos of Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum. The timing of the parley was enough to fuel rumours that something ominous is brewing inside the party mandated to launch sweeping economic changes to bolster federal democratic republic.
Driving a wedge
Speaking at a function organised to launch the ‘Prime Minister Employment Programme,’ Oli interpreted factional activism as an attempt to drive a wedge between the two chairs. Oli and Prachanda share palpable chemistry that led to the unification between the two ideologically opposed communist parties - erstwhile CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre - last year. As the unification process is underway, the two chairs held discordant line of thoughts in public especially over the Venezuela episode. Prachanda issued strong-worded statement against the US’ interference in the Venezuelan internal political affairs that Oli termed as slip of tongue. Oli’s remark was enough for Prachanda to blow a fuse so he went on to fulminate against the government over its ‘lackluster’ performance. He even warned of the possibility of the revival Maoist rebellion to the shock and surprise of the party leadership. Prachanda’s inflammatory rhetoric was unanticipated given that the government is struggling to find its feet amidst the soaring aspirations of people.
In an apparent reference to the Venezuela scam, Oli slammed those involved in damaging Nepal’s relations with the international community. The new communist government has maintained neutral stand on the Venezuela case but it is not in a position to indulge in diplomatic adventurism that might harm national interest and hamper the bid to bring in foreign investment to build critical infrastructure of the country. However, PM Oli said that some were poisoning mind of both chairs, playing one off against another. Oli is not inclined to sour ties with Prachanda as the deepening rifts between them can provide space to egregious elements – domestic and foreign- to destabilise the government as well as the nation. Even for Prachanda, having unreasonable antagonism with Oli will severely damage his prospect of becoming the future PM of country.
It appears that Prachanda’s incendiary speech has paid off. The ruling CPN has officially recognised the ‘Janayuddha Diwas’ (people’s war day), an unbelievable phenomenon for many leaders and cadres of the erstwhile UML. Prachanda described that announcement of the unification of two parties on the memorial day of late Madan Bhandari and marking the ‘Janayuddha Diwas’ in agreement with both parties were historical events. The then CPN-Maoist and its breakaway factions have been marking the ‘Janayuddha Diwas’ on Falgun 1 every year in commemoration of the start of the ruthless insurgency 23 years ago. The violent campaign aimed to abolish parliamentary system and constitutional monarchy.
On the face of it, the Maoist movement sought to overcome the structural injustice meted out to the marginalised groups and classes. But the timing and modus operandi of the insurgency makes anyone to doubt the motive of its leaders. It started just six years after the restoration of multiparty democracy in 1990. Of course, the then Nepali Congress-led government’s ultra-rightist economic policy was in part responsible to instigate the ultra-leftist forces against it. But the target of bellicose campaign and huge number of casualties it caused gave room for genuine suspicion that foreign powers were also behind it. They never want to see Nepal gaining enduring stability, peace and prosperity. The rebels killed many innocent political workers representing the NC and former UML, causing serious divide to Nepali society. More than 300 UML cadres lost their life at the altar of Maoist movement so their widows, orphans and relatives are at loss when the party decided to observe Janayuddha Diwas.
It was no wonder senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal took exception to the decision to mark Janayuddha Diwas. He argued that Prachanda made unilateral decision to observe the day. According to the party sources, general secretary Bishnu Paudel issued a circular to its committees to mark ‘People’s Movement’ and ‘Janayuddha Diwas’ on Falgun 1. Paudel, a KP Oli’s loyalist, had skillfully combined ‘people’s movement day’ with ‘Janayuddha Diwas’ to avoid the possible backlash from those critical of the former Maoist rebels. Even if it was officially decided to mark Janayuddha Diwas, no senior leaders from former UML participated in the Janayuddha Diwas. PM Oli, leaders Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal skipped the commemorative meeting held at the party’s central office at Dhumbarahi. The ex-Maoist stalwarts had crowded out the former UML leaders and cadres at the function. It gave an impression that former UML’s headquarters had turned into a hub of former Maoist rebels. Striking a reconciliatory tone, Prachanda also paid tribute to those who were killed by the Maoist rebels.
The two parties have recognised the term ‘Janayuddha’ in their joint document following the intense debates stretching for months. PM Oli, who was known as the most vociferous critic of the Maoists in the past, is less concerned about all these emotive issues for he does not want they put a spoke in the wheel of his powerful government. Nonetheless, PM Oli needs to take the influential party leaders into confidence to smoothly sail his administration towards its destination. Concluding the unification process in earnest, adhering to the party institutional discipline and ethics, allowing greater inner-party democracy and entertaining critical voice holds the key to the democratic functioning of party. This will, in turn, provide the PM Oli with upper hand to run the government without any hindrance from within the party.
(Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal, Subedi writes regularly on politics, foreign affairs and other contemporary issues)