One of the issues in the raging controversy between the two factions of the NCP is India. Oli enjoys the backing of China and is said to be anti-India. Prachanda and his followers are demanding the resignation of Oli, claiming that his recent remarks against India were “neither politically correct nor diplomatically appropriate.” Oli has accused Prachanda of “conspiring with India” to oust him from power – a charge that the Prachanda camp has stoutly denied. India is the usual red herring in any struggle for power in Nepal. Prachanda has also accused Oli of being “hell bent” on splitting the party

In the 45-member Standing Committee of NCP, the Prachanda faction enjoys a clear majority (26) over the Oli faction (19). So, it is from a position of strength that the Prachanda faction asked Oli to resign as Prime Minister on July17. But Oli is in no mood to resign. He is on a war path, presumably because he thinks that with Beijing’s support he will be able to ride out the storm. He is not very wrong. Beijing was able to broker a temporary peace between the two warring factions. The Chinese envoy in Nepal had to work overtime to bring this about. The NCP decided to thrash out the matter in the next meeting of the Standing Committee on July 28.

More than the incompatibility of the personalities of Prachanda and Oli, the genesis of the conflict lies in the political incompatibility of the two constituents of the NCP. One was the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) led by Prachanda. The other was the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) led by Oli. The two parties merged on May 17, 2018 to form the NCP. The process of unification was long and painful. It required eight long months of consultations and confabulations by the Party Unification Coordination Committee to agree on the modalities of the merger. On hindsight it appears that the merger was more mechanical than organic, if not slightly opportunistic also. Neither side buried the hatchet and what in communist parlance is called “Inner Party Struggle” continued unabated.

One thing that is noteworthy is that while the Communist Party of China (CPC) played a role in bringing about the merger and continued to influence the newly-formed NCP, the powerful Communist Party of India (Marxist) in neighbouring India had little influence over either faction.

As his position as Prime Minister becomes more and more untenable, Oli is resorting to desperate measures to keep himself in power. In April he got an ordinance issued by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari. It amended the existing provision in the Political Parties Act that require 40 per cent vote from both the Central Committee of the CPN as well as its parliamentary party to split the party. Now it will require only 40 per cent support from either the CC or the parliamentary party for a party split to be valid. Reportedly, there was opposition to the amendment within Oli’s own cabinet. But Oli gave a short shrift to all opposition and got the President to sign on the dotted line.

There is practically a stalemate in the party because of the intense factional fights between Oli and Prachanda groups. It is a war of attrition. Prachanda is adamant on his stand that Oli must vacate one of the two offices he is occupying: party co-chairman and Prime Minister. The bitterness is so intense that the Standing Committee meeting has been postponed as many as eight times since July 2. This was the background to the meeting of the Standing Committee held on Tuesday, July 28.

Many hoped that Tuesday’s meeting will thrash out all issues and come to some positive decisions this way or that. But that was not to be. But the hope proved to be illusory. The meeting was to begin at 11 in the morning. But Surya Thapa, press adviser to Prime Minister Oli, said that the meeting had been “postponed indefinitely.” The reason given by Thapa was that the proposals of the meeting were not ready. “A proposal is yet to be made on the basis of the decision of the party secretariat held before”, he explained. But the real reason is that Oli and Prachanda could not agree on a formula to end the intra-party differences.

So, Nepal is back to square one. How long the stalemate will continue is anybody’s guess. But with every passing day, the possibility of Oli and Prachanda reaching a consensus recedes more and more. (IPA Service)