What next for NCP after the court verdict?

Published On: March 9, 2021 07:55 AM NPT By: Narayan Manandhar

If NCP Double is to split along UML and Maoist Centre what will happen to those MPs crisscrossing between Oli and Dahal-Nepal camps?

On March 7, Sunday, for a whole day, the weather inside the Kathmandu Valley was cloudy, if not gloomy. The Sun was not visible in the sky. People joked: “is the Sun rising or fading?” The two disputing factions of Nepal Communist Party (NCP), both claiming their right to have electoral symbol “Sun,” had a jolt from the sky when the Supreme Court not only annulled their name ‘Nepal Communist Party (NCP),’ dubbed as NCP Double, but also reinstated status quo ante. That is, they either have to find a new party name that does not match with the one already registered at the Election Commission or switch back to their pre-unification names: CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) respectively. They cannot fool around by simply having their acronym bracketed within the title “Nepal Communist Party”.

Some people took the verdict as opening up of a political Pandora’s Box while others took it as a panacea to kill the political ills.

Before delving on panacea vs Pandora’s Box debate, let me first have a metaphor picked from the social media: “It is like when two disputing couple were claiming their rights over a new born baby, the court has invalidated or declared their marriage to be illegal.” One wondered, “How is it possible now for the baby to go back to mother’s womb?” Other responded, “It is simple, the baby only has to choose which parent to live with.” In the time of extreme political chaos and confusion, there is no dearth of humour and satire in Nepali media.

The Pushpa Kamal Dahal-Madhav Nepal faction of NCP is particularly irritated by the court verdict. While they were planning to topple Oli government by filing a no-trust motion in parliament, the unexpected decision by the court has, literally, provided a breathing space for a beleaguered PM Oli. Some big shot lawyers have commented the verdict to be “non-implementable”, “beyond what is being requested”, “a political decision rather than a judicial one”. For them it is like opening a can of worms, if not a Pandora’s Box. If NCP Double is to split along their former party lines—UML and Maoist Centre—what will happen to those MPs crisscrossing between Oli and Dahal-Nepal camps? Even to complicate the matter further, what will happen to those MPs who contested in the name of NCP Double in the federal and provincial governments? When MP Bhim Rawal roared inside parliament, questioning the status of the PM and his government, there was also a counter question from the PM, “Which party Mr Rawal himself now represents?”As the Election Commission has already allocated their former names—UML and Maoist Centre—to two other new political outfits, can they retain their status quo ante? Even the Commissioners have differing views. A former Chief Commissioner is reported to have said that the names allocated to two new political parties will be null and void as a result of the court verdict. But the Chief Commissioner is reported as saying, the disputing factions now have to look for new names; their old names are taken away by some other parties. After consultations with their legal advisors, Dahal-Nepal faction will probably look for a judicial review claiming the dispute is only over title of the political party and it cannot rewind the whole unification process.

At a time when NCP Double is in a limbo—neither dead nor alive—due to intense dispute over power and pelf, rather than ideological differences, the court verdict has literally provided an opportunity to save face and split away, if their unification is next to impossible. PM Oli faction is calling for the meeting of CPN-UML literally reviving his grand old party, expecting claim over his electoral symbol “Sun”. His fans are already having a joyous julus in the streets welcoming the verdict as their victory.

However, there is no comfort for him either. His status no more stands as a leader of a single largest party in the House, he has to seek vote of confidence in the parliament if the Maoist Centre decides to withdraw their support. Given the degree of rivalry and animosity between two factions, it is near impossible for him to stay into power without garnering support from Nepali Congress, if he is looking for a breathing space. He may survive a month or two but taking the country to the ruins. “In the long run we all are dead”, this is what Prof John Maynard Keynes said but he was saying this in the context of macro-economics, not politics.

With the verdict, the political ball now rests at the court of the Election Commission. In fact, the ball is resting at several places—inside parliament, inside the court of opposition parties, inside the Supreme Court or who knows inside the outside? This is why the game of possibilities is being complicated in Nepal.

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