Kathmandu: On May 17, 2018, when CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) merged to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), the largest communist force Nepal had ever seen, leaders glorified the unification as the “game changer” in the history of Nepali communist movement. But three years down the line, neither the NCP could live up to its promises made during the unification, nor could it become a communist powerhouse.
The party has now split into three.
The CPN-UML, main opposition and the largest party in terms of parliamentary math, is still at the crossroads; leaders who finally abandoned Madhav Kumar Nepal—whom they had supported and even encouraged to part ways with CPN-UML—and returned to CPN-UML instead of joining Nepal-led CPN (Unified Socialist) are pressuring the leadership to take the party back to Jeth Dui. In fact, this has been their rallying cry for months on end and they made it a bottom line with UML chair K P Sharma Oli before they returned to the mother party.
After the Supreme Court scrapped Nepal Communist Party (NCP) on March 7, 2021, ‘Jestha 2’ is a constant refrain within CPN-UML. The apex court revived the erstwhile CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) after invalidating their merger. The then Madhav Nepal-Jhalanath Khanal faction within CPN-UML made Jestha 2 their bottom line soon after.
Jestha 2, referred to in Nepali parlance as Jeth Dui, marks a watershed in the downfall of what used to be the largest communist party of Nepal.
What is ‘Jestha 2’?
So what is this enigma? CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) merged to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) on Jestha 3, 2075 (May 17, 2018). Jestha 2, 2075 (May 16, 2018) is the pre-merger condition and pre-merger organizational structure of CPN-UML.
Until and before Jestha 2, UML had a different political structure. It had 203 Central Committee members, 23 politburo members, four vice-chairmen, five secretaries, and two senior leaders.
After the merger into NCP, the number of central committee members increased from 203 to 241, incorporating 38 more members during the merger.
Now, Madhav Kumar Nepal has registered a new party–CPN (Unified Socialist)–at the Election Commission on August 18, 2021, of which Nepal is the chairman and Jhalanath Khanal ‘senior leader.’
Second-generation leaders close to Madhav Nepal such as Yubaraj Gyawali, Asta Laxmi Shakya, Bhim Rawal, Ghanashyam Bhusal, Gokarna Bista, Yogesh Bhattarai, Surendra Pandey and Raghuji Pant withdrew their support to Madhav Nepal at the eleventh hour and sided with CPN-UML.
They are the ones who want CPN-UML to return to the structure of ‘Jestha 2’.
The Jestha 2 refrain also has another context.
Why are second-generation leaders demanding the ‘Jestha 2’ structure of UML? Why is K P Oli reluctant?
On May 16, 2021, the 10-member task force comprising five members each from both the Madhav-Nepal faction and Oli faction was formed to resolve the differences. The task force reached a 10-point agreement to end the rift within the party.
The second point of the agreement states that the party’s committees, bodies, and people’s organizations at all levels will be active from the organizational stage of the time before the formation of NCP, which means Jestha 2, 2075 BS. The Jestha 3 decision to nominate members to the Central Committee, according to this point, is also to be considered.
Why does Jestha 2 matter?
‘Jestha 2’ is important because it can decide the fate of CPN-UML, as well as some of its leaders.
The second-generation leaders, by demanding ‘Jestha 2’ organizational structure as their main agenda, have riled up KP Oli and he has stood indifferent to this call. Returning to Jestha 2 structure may create better space for the new leaders who returned to CPN-UML but those in the party from the erstwhile CPN Maoist Centers will face a setback. For them, returning to ‘Jestha 2’ could mean the loss of positions.
Perhaps by sensing this, Prabhu Shah, one such leader, has already decided to leave the CPN-UML.
The leaders who left Madhav Nepal’s camp to join the UML are now pressing the CPN-UML chairman to implement the 10-point deal, of which the Jestha 2 decision is a soul. If the Jestha 2 party structure is not revived, the second generation leaders will be in a moral dilemma as to whether to remain under KP Oli by enduring the humiliation or leave the party and join CPN (Unified Socialist). This moral dilemma could further weaken their position.
Political analyst Hari Roka argues that those leaders have no other option than to seek adjustment under Oli. These leaders abandoned Nepal and joined Oli with a knowledge about the space and position they will get, said Roka. “I don’t think they have any other alternatives than adjusting with whatever Oli may offer them,” Roka added.
Even though some leaders are raising their voices for Jetha 2 structure, says Roka, they will have to be silent at some point. He does not think they will return to CPN (Unified Socialist). “If they try to return to Madhav Nepal’s party, their lawmaker positions will be endangered.”
Oli and other senior CPN-UML leaders appear reluctant to return to Jestha 2. Speaking at a program in Kavre on September 4, Ishwor Pokharel, General Secretary of CPN-UML, said that the party can’t go back to Jestha 2, citing that some leaders from Maoist Centre and other parties have also joined UML. Similarly, speaking at a program in Pokhara, Oli clarified that the party will not return to Jestha 2.
Jestha 2, as such, is a bone of contention within the party.
Bhim Rawal is demanding the post of the incharge of the Sudurpaschim Province according to the organizational structure of ‘Jestha 2’. However, Oli and his confidants are denying the possibility of returning the party structure to the date.
On Sunday, Rawal held discussions with Yogesh Bhattarai, Jhapat Rawal, Deepak Prakash Bhatta and others. Jhapat Rawal, after the discussions, said they have a clear opinion that the 10-point deal should be implemented without any conditions.
On one hand, the second-generation leaders are in need of CPN-UML and vice-versa. The party requires the support of those leaders as the election is at the doorstep. The balance between the ex Maoist leaders and second-generation leaders will be vital to keep the party intact. It remains to be seen if that balance will be struck.