The Communist movement in Nepal, such as it is after a series of political convulsions since last November, has suffered yet another setback with Thursday’s split in the main opposition CPNUML, indeed the Himalayan country’s largest Communist party.
Dissidence has exacerbated with the faction, helmed by Madhav Kumar Nepal, applying for registration as a new party. The political ferment might intensify with the government in Kathmandu supporting a controversial ordinance that, in a quirky twist to the constitutional narrative, has made it easier for the faction-ridden parties to split.
Thursday’s application to the Election Commission seeks the registration of a new political party called CPN-UML (Socialist). Before the petition was filed, Nepal’s President, Bidya Devi Bhandari, issued an ordinance to amend the Political Parties Act, ostensibly to facilitate the procedure for political parties to split.
After applying for the new party, Mr Nepal alleged that the former Prime Minister, Mr K P Sharma Oli, had “pushed the Communist movement” towards dissolution. The registration of a new party by Mr Nepal ends a long-standing feud within the CPN-UML between him and Mr Oli.
The amendment stipulates that 20 per cent or more members of the parliamentary party and the central committee of a political party can split what it calls their “mother party”. Prior to the amendment, the provisions of the Political Parties Act required dissidents to have the support of 40 per cent of members in the parliamentary party and the central committee to split their entity.
Indeed, the unprecedented has happened in Nepal not the least because the ordinance, introduced by the Sher Bahadur Deuba government, has led to splits in at least two parties, marking what observers say an unprecedented political event.
The ordinance was introduced by the Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government on Tuesday, to make it easy for the dissidents to split their mother parties. Confusion thus gets worse confounded. The ordinance is likely to help the Madhav Kumar Nepal-Jhalanath Khanal faction of the CPN-UML, that has been playing a crucial role in the formation of the current coalition government, and is vital to ensure its continuity.
Earlier as Prime Minister, Mr Oli had also tried to issue the ordinance seeking to make it easy to split the party. However, his move was greeted with fierce criticism within the CPN-UML resulting in the President rescinding the decision. Mr Nepal, a former Prime Minister, had gone against the party and supported the then Opposition alliance in its bid to topple the government led by Mr Oli.
“There is need to reorganise and transform the UML,” Mr Nepal said. “So we have decided to register the CPN UML (Samajbadi).” It is the Communist movement’s misfortune that it has hit the reefs in less than a year. There is no ideological conflict involved in Nepal, unlike the split in the Communist Party of India in 1964… between the pro-China and pro-Soviet factions. Nepal bears witness to a clash of Communist personalities.