KATHMANDU, Mar 31: The Left Alliance had pinned hopes that a party merger would be in place before Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who is also the chairperson of CPN-UML, embarked on his official visit to India on April 6.
A merger of UML and CPN ( Maoist Center) before the visit was expected to make Oli, an already powerful prime minister of the country in almost six decades, more influential.
However, his desire is unlikely to materialize largely due to delays in preparation of organizational structure and political documents of a ‘unified’ party. In addition to the ongoing delay is a pledge from Pushpa Kamal Dahal, his counterpart of Maoist Center’s ‘willingness’ to merge the parties only on ‘equal division and responsibility in all levels.’
Both parties had agreed to unify the two parties on April 22 to commemorate the establishment of Nepal Communist Party. The unification was well received from the Maoist Center and Oli was keen to consolidate power, just like he did when he secured more than two-thirds vote where he sought the vote of confidence in the parliament. However, the merger before Oli’s India visit is bleak, Bhim Rawal, vice chair of UML shared.
“Unification of the parties is almost impossible before the Prime Minister’s visit,” Rawal said at Dhangadi airport. “The unification will be ‘soon’ but not before the India visit.”
On October 3, 2017, UML, Maoist Center and Naya Shakti Nepal had signed an agreement to form a left alliance to make a clean sweep in both the elections - the federal and the provincial. However, a political and ideological clash between Naya Shakti Nepal and UML and Maoist Center forced the former to retreat.
Ten days later, Baburam Bhattarai, coordinator of Naya Shakti Nepal, defeated Narayan Kaji Shrestha from Gorkha in the federal elections.
The left alliance swept elections and rejoiced its victory. A merger became an added joy. However, post elections, major breakthroughs were delayed and power-sharing and ‘equality’ became a key concern. Eventually, the leadership decided to share power in the ratio of 70:30 to UML and MC respectively. The debate over the chair of the unified party ended after both Oli and Dahal became ‘co-chairs’ until the party’s general assembly later this year.
While the Maoist Center bent, as Dahal said ‘there’s no way back from now’, UML toughened its stance; reluctant not to lose any anything. Political analysts argued that through such stand, UML wanted to expand its influence by dissolving MC’s leadership and its members into a unified party.
In turn, Dahal, a mature political leader since his first stint as the country’s prime minister in 2008, sought a written agreement on power-sharing that assured of equal power sharing within the party and the government. Dahal made his move saying unless an agreement was in place, Maoist Center would not join the government, rather it would support the UML from outside. In turn, Oli failed to appoint ministers after being elected as the country’s 38th prime minister on February 15.
Amid rumors that such moves were unlikely to form a unified communist party, both the leaders held a series of meetings and on February 19, the leaders came as one with a seven-point agreement that addressed Dahal’s demands, including the party’s new ideological stand of Marxism and Leninism.
Dahal sought powerful ministerial portfolios for his comrades but got only one - the Ministry of Home Affairs. Sensing a weakness in Dahal, Oli invited two Mades-based parties to join the government which pushed Dahal to send eight of his party’s members as ministers.
However, a dissent has surfaced within Dahal’s party where the chair has been accused of losing more and winning less in the name of party unification. “The risk is that if Dahal gives a nod to everything that Oli says, he might eventually disappear and with him, our party itself,” a political analyst said adding that the UML would weigh more in a unified party. This is something that Maoist Center is careful to tackle, as Padam Raj Joshi, politbureau member of Maoist shared.
“We will soon resolve our ongoing differences in ideology and organogram with the UML to ensure that nobody becomes dissatisfied. We will make sure that both the parties come victorious. No one must be second because both parties have their own values and contributions to national politics.”