Divided Marxist-Leninist

Nepal’s largest party CPN-UML is losing its hold on mainstream politics not due to any outside enemies but because of the culture of conspiracy inside the party, its mishandling of dissent, and distrust among leaders.

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 4 min.

Kathmandu: Bharat Mohan Adhikari, former Minister of Finance and a veteran leader of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, once lamented how he was ignored and neglected by KP Sharma Oli, UML Chair, after he became the Prime Minister.

In an interview-based article, published a few months before his demise, Adhikari revealed that he had requested a 45-minute meeting with Oli after the latter was elected the prime minister but he was denied. In the interview, he also lamented that Oli’s advisors and Personal Assistants never entertained his request to arrange time for a brief meeting with him.

Bharat Mohan Adhikari is the same leader who introduced senior citizen allowances in the country and UML still does not have any other powerful elections agenda than this one.

Adhikari’s revelation illustrates how KP Oli has been increasingly surrounded by his advisors and interest groups, systematically pushing away the party’s well-intentioned leaders and cadres. He, however, managed to introduce a new breed of politics in Nepal, a hybrid of populism and nationalism.

Over the course of time, the feeling of ‘I am the party and the party is me’ kept on growing inside KP Oli, and his core coterie, who were reaping the benefits of his power, started reiterating the same narrative and glorifying him as a singular towering leader of the country, said a leader close to Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of UML.

After three and a half years in power, KP Oli today stands as a champion of confrontational politics in Nepal, commentators say. Forget the national politics, rift and dissatisfaction in his own powerful party UML is so intense that it is no longer possible to keep them under wraps. https://simplealternatives.com/

The July 18 floor test was glaring evidence that the internal feud and discontent was spreading like a wildfire in the UML. Many UML leaders crossed the floor to vote for Sher Bahadur Deuba—and not only leaders who were openly against him but also those among his trusted coterie.

It was UML that was on the most fragile ground in terms of party unity during the vote of confidence session in the parliament. One faction of the UML left the venue before the voting process started while another faction voted against Sher Bahadur Deuba and some leaders even voted in favor of Deuba.

As many as 83 MPs representing UML voted against the motion while the party has 121 members in the parliament. Sher Bahadur Deuba of Nepali Congress, which has only 61 seats in the parliament, got majority votes. 

The latest episode poses the question: were UML leaders praising Oli just because of the political clout he held, and to serve their vested interests? In fact, the party was going through a period marked by a spiral of silence, where leaders were hesitant to speak out against Oli due to fear of ostracization at the hands of party leadership.

CPN-UML, a moderate communist party with a stronghold at the grassroots level, had never gone through the same level of crisis before. “Today, the party leadership is fully detached from its grassroots cadres and general people,” added the leader close to Madhav Nepal.

The party’s discontent is not only limited to its cadres. In a way, the leaders’ desperation for power has shattered the dream of stability and prosperity among people.

Many UML leaders are loyal to the party, not KP Oli. They are attached to the party’s name and election symbol. KP Oli interpreted attachment toward party name and election symbol as loyalty toward him. 

CPN-UML, a moderate communist party with a stronghold at the grassroots level, had never gone through the same level of crisis before. 

Leaders who are expressing dissatisfaction over the working style of KP Oli and his coterie are also echoing the disappointment felt by most Nepali people, who voted left alliance into power in desperate anticipation that the transformative moment in the country’s destiny would come soon.

Krishna Kumar Shrestha ‘Kisaan’, a CPN-UML lawmaker who was close to KP Sharma Oli, voted in favor of Sher Bahadur Deuba on Sunday’s floor test. Shrestha said there are many leaders in the party who are dissatisfied and feel victimized. “There is a possibility of a revolt inside the party,” he said.

Political analysts and observers who have been following Nepal’s leftist politics for a long time cast doubt that CPN-UML will remain as united and strong ever again.

Hari Roka, a political analyst, said that the primary reason behind the crisis inside the party is that it is lacking a clear and common ideology.

“If a party struggles with lack of ideas, vision and goal, the leaders tend to become self-centered and do whatever they like,” Roka said. “At present, UML lacks clear ideology and the result is its massive deviation from fundamental principles.”

There is little hope that UML may rise to power again if the party remains divided. Even if UML rises to power again, CPN-UML’s prominent leaders have to answer some questions: What was the ground for a division that not only affected party structure but also pushed the country’s politics into a deep crisis? Will the party be able to fix multiple fault lines in the internal system? Will the leaders be approachable to the general public?

Probably realizing the fact, KP Oli has already given hints of making revision of secularism a political agenda in the next election. 

This might be a populist agenda but how can a communist leader justify an agenda similar to Kamal Thapa, a conformist leader, is a huge question.

In the past, ‘agent of foreign power centers’ was a popular catchphrase among the communist leaders and cadres in Nepal. Needless to say, it’s a vague talking point that can be interpreted any way one likes. The UML has picked it up again. Leaders and cadres are blaming each other as ‘agents’ and ‘traitors’. But the question is: Who is the real traitor? Can they produce any evidence or is it just a “communist” idea of defaming each other? Only time will unfold the answer.