Republica  Analysis

How Madhav Nepal lost the plot in 68 days

Published On: May 14, 2021 10:33 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

It has been exactly 68 days since the Supreme Court paved a way for CPN-UML and the Maoist (Center) to go about their ways. Subsequent effort to review the decision was refused by the Court. The Madhav Kumar Nepal-faction of CPN-UML threatened to resign en masse so that Nepali Congress, the Maoist (Center) and JSP would form a coalition government. Last-minute deals between PM KP Sharma Oli and Nepal prevented the party from splitting, and the CPN-UML government has survived a threat created by its own misdoings. 

Madhav Kumar Nepal had more than three-dozen members of parliament at the beginning of his dissent within the party. Over the weeks, he barely had two-dozen members willing to follow his order. Nepal’s indecisiveness allowed PM Oli to make his moves. One by one, Oli started courting people close to Nepal. By late afternoon Thursday, it was clear that the Nepal-faction was no where close to resigning from the House of Representatives, allowing Oli to claim victory. What started as a fatal blow to Oli within his party, ended in a whimper, and calls for unity by Mr Nepal himself. 

While the intra-party fight is far from over, Madhav Kumar Nepal has proved that he is not the man who can make a move at a critical juncture. He had ample time to solidify his standing within the party. While Nepal insisted that he would not compromise on hollow promises, he just did that yesterday. PM Oli verbally agreed to Nepal’s key demand of reverting to CPN-UML of 16 May 2018 status--before the party merged with the Maoist (Center). However, political junkies in Kathmandu say Oli will only implement the agreements as per his necessity. People close to CPN-UML say Oli will ditch agreements with Nepal once he receives the vote of confidence in the parliament in the next 30 days. 

Fed up by Nepal’s inability to take the call, some of his key supporters started talking to Oli and his people. Over time it was clear that Nepal would not make the move-- resigning en masse-- to not only oust Oli from Baluwatar, but to burnish his image as someone who is resolute on his decision. 

As it became clear that the party was heading for a split, it was former communications minister Gokul Banskota who visited Nepal late night Wednesday to end the deadlock. This meeting was swiftly arranged after Nepal did not answer PM Oli's phone call. Along with Bankstoa, Gokarna Bista also joined the meeting at Nepal’s residence in Koteshwor. Nepal told Banksota that he was firm on his decisions, and that Oli had not taken initiative to sit for talks. Banksota then briefed PM Oli about the meeting. 

Finance Minister Poudel went to meet leader Nepal Thursday morning. Poudel had informed Nepal of the party’s decision to withdraw the expulsion decision, and Oli’s willingness to go back to the CPN-UML as it was on 16 May 2018. Minister Poudel also met with Ghanshyam Bhusal, Gokarna Bista, Yogesh Bhattarai on Monday, just before the vote of confidence in the parliament. There was no contact between the two factions on Tuesday and Wednesday. It appeared that the Nepal-faction was all set to resign on Thursday. 

Early morning Thursday, Oli withdrew the party's earlier decision to suspend four leaders - Nepal, Bhim Rawal, Surendra Pandey and Ghanashyam Bhusal-from the party. Soon after the news, Pandey, Bhusal and Bhattrai commented that the decision was a step in a positive direction.  

Nepal met with lawyers on Thursday morning. Shambhu Thapa, Tikaram Bhattarai and Govinda Bandi suggested to Nepal that he wage his fight within the party. Nepal also told the lawyers that he was ready to make sacrifices to prevent the party from splitting.  

Finally, a four-hour long meeting between the two leaders later Thursday afternoon concluded by agreeing to form a ten-member task force to resolve issues within the party. Finance minister Bishnu Poudel will be the convenors of the proposed task force. Subash Newang, Shankar Pokharel, Bhim Rawal, Surendra Pandey and Ghamshyam Bhusal will be in the task force, and the rest of the members are yet to be finalized.   

“We discussed the six points I had written to PM Oli, including his decision on 12 March 2021 to dissolve the Central Committee, and returning to the party as of 16 May 2018. We agreed to resolve the issues,” Nepal told reporters after his meeting with Oli on Thursday. 

Political analysts say that the way Oli outmaneuvered Nepal was a testament to his political acumen. Oli knew that the Nepal-faction was not going to walk away from the party that they had struggled for decades to build to this stature. It will not be easy for Nepal and his dwindling team of supporters to bend Oli to their will.     

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