Deepdive into NCP’s internal rift

How NCP General Secretary Poudel saved NCP from splitting

Published On: September 18, 2020 03:24 PM NPT By: Tapendra Karki

KATHMANDU, Sept 18: The five-month long intraparty disputes within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has come to an end, at least until the party’s convention. The party was on the verge of splitting many times during the period. During this tumultuous period, NCP General Secretary Bishnu Poudel emerged as the leader who could talk to everyone, and help them find a common course of action. Party chairmen duo KP Sharma Oli and Puspha Kamal Dahal relied on him to convey each other’s message. 

Poudel separately met with Jhala Nath Khanal, Bam Dev Gautam, Madhav Kumar Nepal, and Narayan Kaji Shrestha in an effort to diffuse the party’s internal rift. He met with the senior leaders many times during the period of intense infighting. “General Secretary Poudel met with President Bhandari, PM Oli, Chairman Dahal and other senior leaders during this period,” said an NCP Central Committee leader. He strongly believed in the unified NCP, and sought help from Janardan Sharma, a close aide to Dahal, and Shankar Pokhrel, a close aide to PM Oli, when Oli and Dahal were not even on speaking terms. Poudel conveyed to the leaders that any form of ‘accident’ within the party would forever destroy the communist movement in the country, said another senior NCP leader. 

When NCP’s conflict was at its peak in the second week of July, Poudel met with Jhala Nath Khanal and Narayan Kaji Shrestha. Both Gautam and Poudel live in Bhainsepati. Poudel met Gautam multiple times, in a bid to save the party from splitting. “It was relatively easier for Poudel to talk to everybody as he is the party’s general secretary,” said a central committee NCP leader. He returned disappointed from meetings with Dahal many times, but his intense belief in preventing the party from splitting worked at the end. Both Janardan Sharma and Shankar Pokharel also believed in the mission to prevent the party from splitting. The trio worked together, added the NCP leader. 

The conflict took a serious turn when Dahal complained that the agreement of November 19, 2019, where Oli and Dahal had agreed to let Oli run the government and Dahal the party, was not implemented in its fullest. In addition, the party’s decision to nominate Bam Dev Gautam to the National Assembly had not been implemented. The rift came to a logical conclusion when Dahal was entrusted with the full responsibility of running the party, and taking Gautam to the Assembly. Poudel who had also played a key role in the unification of the erstwhile CPN (Maoist Center) and the CPN-UMLwas instrumental in mapping out the agreement. “Poudel spent many sleepless nights in July/August,” reported a central committee NCP leader. 

Prime Minister Oli, on April 20, decided to issue two ordinances: One related to political parties and the other about the Constitutional Council. Both the ordinances were quickly approved by the Office of the President. PM Oli orchestrated a plan to bring a member of parliament of Samajwadi Party from Mahottari to Kathmandu, creating a political earthquake in Kathmandu. Then 20 members of the NCP standing committee demanded a meeting. The party was also struggling to find a consensus on the American grant of $550 million under the MCC. The Oli-led government was under intense public scrutiny over Omni’s controversial purchase of medical supplies, and the government’s overtly favorable treatment to Yeti Holdings. All the events led to the party’s senior leader demanding PM Oli’s resignation. 

“During this difficult time Poudel talked to both Oli and Dahal’s top aides to find a middle path,” said a National Assembly member close to Poudel. “He was on high alert even before Oli and Dahal’s disagreement became public. He was talking to everyone,” added the National Assembly member. 

NCP’s Central Committee meeting slated for July 2 was postponed at a time when Oli v.s. Dahal-Nepal conflict was at its peak. Poudel succeeded in establishing communications between Oli and Dahal, and the party’s secretariat meeting was held on July 18. PM Oli proposed the party’s convention in November at the meeting, and Dahal agreed to the proposal. Then Oli, Dahal, Poudel and Sharma went to the President Office, but the whole thing was derailed when Dahal later said that an agreement had not been reached. 

The party’s Central Committee meeting of July 28 was cancelled by Oli and conducted by Dahal at the same time. Bam Dev Gautam put forth a six-point proposal the same day. It appeared that the party was on the verge of a vertical split. 

Then the Dahal-Nepal faction started holding separate meetings, and even called for press briefings. This was when Poudel took a decisive step, by working together with Janardan Sharma and Shankar Pokharel, in having Oli and Dahal sit for talks. Poudel and Sharma were present in several meetings between Oli and Dahal. On 15 August, as per Poudel’s proposal, a six-member conflict resolution team was formed. Poudel was the coordinator of the team where Sharma, Pokharel, Pampha Bhusal, Bhim Rawal and Surendra Pandey served as members. The party’s five-month-long conflict came to a logical conclusion, based on the recommendations of the conflict resolution team headed by Poudel. 

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