Has a party on the verge of a damaging split somehow stepped back from the brink? More likely, it has been shamed into postponing the inevitable.
Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli and his NCP rival and co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ had dug in their heels so deep that their one-on-one meetings had started becoming a curious affair. Since the two men had nothing new to say, they began shouting at each other what they’ve always been saying.
The rival NCP camps were getting apprehensive as Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi resumed her consultations to keep the party intact. The Indians, already miffed by Her Excellency’s earlier success in rescuing Oli, began taking cheap shots in all directions.
For months now, Indian analysts and experts have been trying hard to make a distinction between the Nepali people and their incumbent prime minister. Sleazy and sloppy Indian media reports have subverted that ploy. Even the loudest domestic critics of Oli hated the way the Indians were trying to undermine our elected prime minister. Oli supporters kept rallying in public, rain and/or Covid-19.
Things got so disgraceful on the China-versus-India front that one Indian reporter eventually revealed that the chiefs of India’s domestic and external intelligence agencies were camped in Kathmandu for political parleys far broader than Chinese ambassador’s. Two detectives versus one diplomat might sound unfair. But, then, who knows what the other ‘external stakeholders’ are up to.
It took an act of God to afford the officially atheist NCP some relief. Oli went on television to say that the crisis in the NCP was too internal to affect his government’s performance. Dahal, back at his home constituency in Chitwan, wondered what he might have wrought had he become a bit too rash in Kathmandu.
So, what’s the hiatus really about? Oli and Dahal (and the rest) have been shamed into pulling back, apparently by second-generation NCP leaders. A compromise formula is said to be in the works that would allow Oli to keep the top government and party posts. In exchange, Oli is being persuaded to hand over greater day-to-day control of the NCP to Dahal.
If things go according to plan, the prime minister may start awarding key chief ministerships to Madhav Nepal loyalists and run the government in closer consultation with other leaders. A cabinet reshuffle incorporating more rival faction members, and greater representation of the Dahal and Nepal camps in diplomatic and political appointments could be part of the new compromise.
But, then, what’s new here? Such commitments were made many times in the past. Oli rivals took little time in accusing the prime minister of reneging on them. Can the prospect of ignominy alone separate the belligerents? Not likely.
Even though we may have dodged the bullet, for now, it’s pretty clear the principal protagonists are already regrouping for another day. Bereft of ideological coherence from inception, the NCP is too consumed by factions and personal ambitions to continue as a single organization. The principal satraps want a decisive battle so bad that they may just be looking for a casus belli that is credible enough.