Is the ruling CPN-UML heading toward a formal split?

Published On: March 20, 2021 08:03 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, March 20: With the central committee meeting of the ruling CPN-UML on Saturday deciding to seek clarifications from four of key rival faction leaders, many within the UML and outside the UML have started asking a question: Is the ruling CPN-UML on the verge of split?  

Although the rival faction leader Madhav Kumar Nepal has publicly said that their activities are aimed at strengthening the party unity, this has failed to impress the party Chairman K P Oli, who is also the prime minister. Prime Minister Oli has repeatedly warned in public that those boycotting the party meetings will face disciplinary action. 

Chairman Oli seems to have started taking action from the key faces of the rival faction. Those sought clarifications on Saturday include senior leader Nepal, Vice Chairman Bhim Rawal, Surendra Pandey and Ghanashyam Bushal. They have been charged for launching anti-party activities and defaming the party leadership.  Chairman Oli has accused the Nepal-led faction of promoting factionalism and carrying out parallel activities against the party’s discipline.

The decision of the UML Central Committee to initiate action against the rival faction leaders comes in the wake of leaders close to the Nepal-led faction boycotting the party’s Parliamentary Party meeting and Central Committee meeting. The faction had also held a national gathering of the party’s cadres and leaders in Lalitpur despite warnings issued by Chairman Oli and General Secretary Ishwar Pokharel.

Nepal-led faction has maintained that it won’t attend any meeting unless Chairman Oli corrects his decision to unilaterally include 23 CC members and reshuffle party responsibilities. Oli had stripped all leaders close to Nepal off their party responsibility. 

The relations between Chairman Oli and senior leader Nepal soured further after the rival faction organized a national gathering of the party cadres and leaders in Kathmandu on March 17 and 18. Chairman Oli had then warned of sanctioning against those participating in the factional gathering organized against the party's directives.

The Nepal-led faction has demanded Chairman Oli to restore the party as it was exactly before May 17, 2018 when the UML announced its merger with the erstwhile CPN (Maoist Center) and formed the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). The unification was invalidated by the Supreme Court’s order on March 7, forcing leaders close to the Nepal-led faction to be a part of the UML headed by Oli. 

While the Nepal-led faction had decided to be part of the Dahal-led faction of the erstwhile Nepal Communist Party (NCP), several leaders belonging to the erstwhile Maoist Center had chosen to be part of the Oli-led NCP faction. Most Maoist leaders joining the Oli-led NCP had decided to stay with Oli even as the apex court verdict revived the Maoist Center. 

The latest row between Oli and Nepal-led faction surfaced after Oli inducted all 23 Maoist leaders joining his camp as UML CC members and gave key responsibility in the party, withdrawing the party responsibility of all leaders close to Nepal. 

Leaders close to the Nepal-led faction say it would be difficult to stay within the UML if Chairman Oli continues to corner them. “It is a difficult choice. But it will be difficult to tolerate all the humiliation and stay within the same party if Chairman Oli continues with his policy to corner all leaders close to the rival faction,” said a leader close to the faction, asking anonymity. 

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