By Maila Baje
Newly bestowed executive authority seems to have straightaway shifted the outlook of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ – and quite significantly.
A man who barely two weeks earlier was warning of hounding all remnants of the ancient regime into oblivion now fears for the political system he sits atop. And nowhere does he cite a vast right-wing conspiracy this time. Instead, Dahal rues the way royal pretensions have crept into the ways of those driving republicanism. Of course, he is quiet about his own role in the development and display of this disfigurement.
The party Dahal has to run for the next couple of weeks in the absence of Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli is in a real mess. Barely had the controversy over the distribution of NCP departments been resolved than the issue of seniority clawed its way back into a bigger storm.
At a party meeting intended to extend best wishes to Oli on his latest medical trip to Singapore, senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal and the prime minister descended into a sordid kindergarten brawl. They have since expressed regret at their conduct, we are told through intermediaries, and pledged to work together. However, the episode was all too emblematic of the effect of the individual arrogating himself above both the party and the state.
The other protagonist, Jhal Nath Khanal, a one-term former prime minister like Madhav Nepal, was in China pledging to go after those bad-mouthing the Belt and Road Initiative. Yet he has little to celebrate after recovering his rank from Madhav Nepal, if that is indeed what he has done.
The proposal to appoint Bam Dev Gautam – who has been eyeing the premiership for the better part of three decades under three systems – to a newly created vice-presidency of the NCP not only elevates someone else to third position but also underscores the broader realignments under way in the party. No one seems to know how the eventual equation might unfold and its implications for the party and state, thereby sharpening individual insecurities and aspirations.
In fairness, Madhav Nepal has a point. Oli and Dahal today speak of consensus as if it were an integral characteristic of the party and seek its firm application. That wasn’t how the NCP was formed, though. What went on during all those one-on-one sessions between the two putative co-chairs? Most key lieutenants of both are still in the dark about the power-sharing deal underpinning the unification of the Marxist-Leninist and Maoist factions. The rank and file can flaunt their ignorance citing that the Oli-Dahal deal not being a party document is immaterial.
Oli and Dahal, for their part, couldn’t even get the name of the new party right, much less its guiding philosophy. Marxism, Leninism and Maoism were aberrantly fused into a political platform that succeeded in winning massive votes but couldn’t begin to govern. Today, after so many self-inflicted wounds, all factional leaders seem to agree that the NCP will complete its five-year term, although they can’t agree under whom. Yet they have the nerve to complain of indiscipline?