Once sidelined, Bamdev Gautam emerges powerful again in NCP
February 4, 2020 08:10 AM NPT
KATHMANDU, Feb 4: Ahead of the 2017 parliamentary elections, Bamdev Gautam was in the political limelight for his efforts to get the then two communist parties-CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist)—to merge into one to counter the Nepali Congress.
His efforts to bring together the long-time communist rivals–Pushpa Kamal Dahal and KP Sharma Oli—succeeded and the present Nepal Communist Party came into being. The party went on to secure a near two-thirds majority in parliament and also formed the provincial governments in six of the federal provinces , besides winning most local government seats.
Gautam's supporters had projected him as a future prime minister in the parliamentary polls. But Gautam lost the parliamentary race from Bardiya constituency no 1 and has since remained in relative shadow. NC's Sanjay Gautam had defeated him by 727 votes. Though widely seen as the architect of left party unification, Gautam's defeat in Bardiya was a major setback. He attributed the defeated to 'non-cooperation from the party'. It kept him out of parliamentary politics and out of any key position in government.
To regain his space in parliament, Gautam had expressed his willingness to contest the by-elections from Dolpa and Kathmandu. But these plans were withheld due to objections within the party.
Recently, the party urged him to contest upper house polls . But he rejected the offer as existing parliamentary rules don't allow an upper house member to become prime minister.
Gautam has now become vice-chairman of the NCP, and is seen as a power center in the ruling party. Although he ranks fifth in the party pecking order after KP Sharma Oli, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Jhalanath Khanal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, Gautam has been named chief of its organization department.
The position of organization chief is considered key in a communist party.
Gautam presides over 800,000 organized members of the NCP. And the party statute mandates him to call party meetings and take on the responsibilities of the party chiefs in their absence. Citing these provisions in the party statute, Gautam's supporters say recent developments have made him a decisive player in the party.
In an informal meeting with supporters held at his residence, Gautam has vowed to double the party membership.
“I will resolve all disputes seen in the party unification process and make the party the strongest ever,” he reportedly said at the Monday meeting.
Gautam is starting a campaign from Province 2 to resolve intra-party rifts.“Bamdevji was sidelined in the party for long,” said Balram Banskota, an NCP leader, adding, “But justice has now been done to him and he will prove his mettle as always.”
Gautam is considered skillful enough to change the internal power equations, especially after he succeeded in getting Agni Prasad Sapkota elected as speaker of the lower house of parliament against party chairman Oli's wishes.
Oli was determined to elect his loyalist Subas Nembang but was compelled to give up his stance after Gautam organized an informal meeting of members of the party secretariat and persuaded them to opt for Sapkota.
Party insiders predict that as party organisation chief, Gautam's influence could increase further in future.