Why do Nepali political parties keep splitting?

Internal tussle within the parties for power and subsequent splits has become the recurrent theme of Nepali politics. Is it because the leaders are averse to change?

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: On February 8, Kamal Thapa resigned from the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) following a disagreement with Rajendra Lingden, the incumbent chair of the party. Thapa had led RPP for a long time before he was defeated by Lingden in the General Convention of the party held a month ago. 

He announced his resignation during a press conference organized in Hetauda citing that his demands were not addressed by Lingden.

Thapa’s resignation is a fresh case in Nepali politics of a leader leaving a political party following the internal conflict.

The CPN-UML suffered the same fate a few months ago when a faction led by Madhav Kumar Nepal broke away to form CPN (Unified Socialist). Similar was the case in the erstwhile Nepal Communist Party (NCP). Dispute between Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and KP Sharma Oli led to the dissolution of the merger between the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center).

The power-sharing dispute also led to the split of Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal, with Mahantha Thakur and Rajendra Mahato breaking away to form Loktantrik Samajbadi Party (LSP).

While people in general support unity among political parties, politicians, on the other hand, do not hesitate to split the party when their hold on their party is challenged. They crave to remain in power for as long as they can, despite their repeated failure to live up to people’s expectations and their own promises for change and leadership transfer.

Internal tussle within the parties for power and subsequent splits has become the recurrent theme of Nepali politics.

Why do parties keep splitting? Is it because the leaders are averse to change?

Political analyst Tula Narayan Shah says it is not so much a case of discarding change than a battle for executive power. It is evident that the party leaders who enjoy executive power are not generous enough when it comes to power-sharing, he said. “The tussle between KP Oli and Prachanda and Madhav Nepal and between top leaders in JSPN are the fresh cases in point,” he said.

In the ruling Nepali Congress (NC), senior leader Ram Chandra Poudel among others supported the leadership of Sher Bahadur Deuba in the recent General Convention despite their cold relationship. This may be taken as a recent case of the reluctance of the political leaders to accept the agenda of leadership transfer and change. Young generation leaders rarely get a chance to come forward in politics and rise to top posts.

Most of our leaders support the status quo.

Balen Shah, who has announced to vie for the post of mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City in the upcoming local elections, said that the old leadership is averse to change in power and prevents youth leaders from rising to power because “they fear that new leadership and change in power may expose the wrongdoings of old leadership during their tenure.”

Those who speak up for leadership change say that they, despite possessing merit, are barred from climbing up the power ladder. “This is wrong,” said Balen. “Seventy percent of voters in Nepal are young, under 40. Old leadership should recognize what they can do. This idea should be advocated vigorously for a shift in power so that youths with capacity succeed.”

CK Lal, a political commentator, says that it is rather natural for leaders in top posts not to accept change as they are the carriers of the old system in a new political system. “A leader does not transfer their authority willingly; it is the process that should compel them to do so. But our processes are designed in such a complicated way that it is difficult for new leadership to come forward,” he said.

The first step to strengthen the democratic system, Lal said, is to strengthen the political parties.

“Systems should be designed in a manner that promotes leaders with merit, which our system does not do,” he said.