June Analysis: Domestic Politics

Table: Timeline of major political events in June

DateMajor Events
June 1JSP’s Yadav faction expels four leaders, whereas Thakur faction expels Yadav from the party
June 4JSP’s Thakur faction joins the Oli government
June 6Oli ‘unilaterally’ issues a six-point deal—to take the party to its pre-merger state but with a condition that requires a withdrawal of signatures that back Deuba for PM
June 10The Supreme Court issues an interim order against the Citizenship Ordinance; The SC also invalidates CPN-UML’s 10th General Convention Organizing Committee, which annuls Oli’s actions against Karnali Province lawmakers and Nepal faction’s leaders
June 18JSP’s Yadav faction submits an application, with majority party members, to the EC seeking legitimacy over the party
June 22The SC issues interim order against Oli’s ‘post House dissolution’ Cabinet expansions and scraps all the appointments made unconstitutionally
June 23The SC starts hearing the House dissolution cases at a constitutional bench
June 30The final meeting of the SC-invalidated 10th Convention Organizing Committee of the CPN-UML decides to revive the party’s pre-merger Central Committee, but inducts former Maoist leaders into the Standing Committee

Analysis

As the Supreme Court verdict on PM Oli’s May 22 House dissolution nears, politics within the CPN-UML and outside gains momentum once again. The court’s last few decisions— be it against his Cabinet expansion, his unilateral efforts to seize the party, or the Citizenship Ordinance—offer Oli a legitimate cause of concern for his political future. With most of his unconstitutional efforts curtailed so far, Oli’s faith in the Supreme Court to uphold his House dissolution move appears to have shaken. Owing to that realization, perhaps, he has made moves, although half-hearted and somewhat deceitful, to court the disgruntled Madhav Nepal group back in the party. One such move was Oli’s unilateral ‘scrapping up’ of the illegitimate 10th General Convention Organizing Committee on June 30. Although some leaders claim that the move creates a favorable environment for an agreement between the two factions, Oli’s intentions and the factions’ current political realities tell otherwise.

Earlier this month, Oli had issued a six-point deal, committing to return to May 17, 2018, if the 23 lawmakers who challenged his House dissolution move and supported Deuba’s bid to be the prime minister withdrew their signatures. However, the Nepal faction quickly declined the proposal, accusing it of yet another ploy. The SC’s decisions on June 10 and 22 as well as the ongoing SC hearing against his House dissolution move all led Oli to make a more drastic move; through ‘the final meeting’ of the 10th General Convention Organizing Committee, he scrapped it up and called a Central Committee meeting on July 2. Interestingly, the meeting also inducted former Maoist leaders, who defected Maoist Centre and joined Oli after NCP’s split, into CPN-UML’s Standing Committee. The Central Committee that the meeting revived was also the 241-member Committee extended for the unification, not the original with 203 elected members. Besides these dissatisfactions, the Nepal group called the Central Committee meeting summoned by an illegitimate structure illegal and decided not to attend it. With Oli’s somewhat weakened position, second-rank leaders from both the factions continue to facilitate an agreement and save the party unity. However, both factions have difficult questions and realities to face.

Photo: RSS

PM Oli wants the Nepal faction to withdraw their signatures from the sub judice House dissolution case. This is important for Oli because the withdrawal would undo the anti-Oli majority and complicate the court hearing. So even if the SC restored the House, Deuba would not be appointed the prime minister. In fact, the court could redirect Oli to first exhaust Article 76.4 of the Constitution, according to which PM Oli would have to seek confidence in the parliament. With a united CPN-UML and the support from JSP’s Thakur faction, Oli may once again be the prime minister—constitutionally. However, Oli’s condition is not easy for the Nepal faction to fulfill. Madhav Nepal has repeatedly stressed his commitment to the opposition alliance; deserting the alliance and siding with Oli would put moral and ethical questions on him and his faction. The faction’s political reality is different, though. Splitting from the CPN-UML and establishing a new party is neither a politically practical option nor a priority for Nepal. He understands the risk of splitting from the party, where he has had a long legacy. Therefore, an Oli-Nepal compromise is a necessity for both; only the terms of understanding are divergent.

The spillover of the communist politics appears to have created two clear losing groups, as of yet. The first is the Mahant Thakur group of Janata Samajwadi Party. Committed to getting their demands fulfilled, the group defied the party’s majority and joined the Oli government. They succeeded to get some Madhes/Tharuhat-movement cases withdrawn. However, their major demands, including the Citizenship Amendment Ordinance, release of their lawmaker Resham Chaudhary, and Constitutional Amendment, were all put on hold by the Supreme Court. Now, the faction is embroiled in a protracted legal battle with its rival faction. The faction’s political future hinges on the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Election Commission, after which it will have to decide whether or not to continue the alliance with PM Oli.

Another losing group is the former Maoist leaders, who chose to side with Oli when the SC decision split the erstwhile Nepal Communist Party (NCP) into CPN-UML and Maoist Centre. These leaders, who lost their ministerial portfolios, are now fighting for their identity and position in the CPN-UML. While Oli’s moves indicate his intention to reward their allegiance by giving them ‘respectable’ positions in the party, the Nepal faction has displayed its strong reservation against Oli’s unilateral attempts to do so. As it appears, the former Maoist leaders may have to settle with little. On the other hand, Dahal’s Maoist Centre is facing its own challenges of strengthening the party and guiding the opposition alliance, which is weakened by Nepal faction’s temptation to return to the party and Nepali Congress’ internal issues. The largest opposition party that is leading the anti-Oli coalition is now distracted by its upcoming general convention and factional politics, which has gained new dimensions. Initially, a three-faction party—led by Deuba, Poudel, and Situala— appears headed towards a possible reconfiguration of the party equation. While Bimalendra Nidhi has decided to challenge his long-time companion Deuba, Ram Chandra Poudel, Dr. Shekhar Koirala, Dr. Shashank Koirala, and Prakash Man Singh have all expressed their will to run for party president. Besides the internal disputes regarding active membership distribution, therefore, a budding alliance among Nidhi, Singh, and Dr. Shashank Koirala, has kept everyone curious, anticipating, and busy.

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