By Sankar Ray
A disastrous spell as party chair and prime minister notwithstanding, reelection of 69-year old Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli as the chairman of Communist Party of Nepal –United Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) at the party’s 10th General Convention on Tuesday, held at Sauraha, Chitwan, was a foregone conclusion –not because of popularity or acceptability but chicanery and manipulation, according to senior political observers. Some party insiders in senior positions were fuming in resentment against what they termed an individual-centric party where dissent and democratic exercise do not exist. The general impression is there is annihilation of inner-party democracy – something never seen in the party ever since it had come out of underground party life.
Oli secured 1840.votes against his rival Bhim Rawal who managed to get 223 votes., Gokarna Bista, Yogesh Bhattarai, Chhabilal Bishwakarma, Padhma Aryal, Lekharaj Bhatta, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and Raghubir Mahaseth have been elected as the secretaries of the party. Not all of 2152 delegates cast their votes. In all, 80 candidates fought for 50 posts.
But there is another version that Oli could win hands down without resorting to undemocratic means but he didn’t take any risk. None of his rivals inside and outside CPN-UML has such a fighting political career and an unflinching crusader against monarchical panchayat order. A school dropout, he joined the communist party at the age of 18 but was imprisoned when he was 22, implicated in the murder of Dharma Prasad Dhakal, a farmer in eastern Nepal.. He remained in jail for 14 years between 1973 and 1987. After his release from prison in 1987, he was inducted into central committee member of party and made in-charge of the Lumbini zone. In 1991, he was elected to the Nepal National Assembly.
Nevertheless, there is no difference about the unstoppable authoritarianism of Oli although is ostentatiously opposed to factionalism. A senior party functionary told the media in a bantering tone, ‘it’s quite strange that Oli harped on about ending factionalism in the party but because of him factionalism is likely to raise its head within his own coterie’ . Indeed, there was no political debate nor ideological discussions at the convention , not to speak working toward drafting a party programme after the break-up of the unified CP of Nepal (including the Maoists)‘When there is no ideology left in a party, everyone fights for positions. That’s exactly what happened, a critique of Oli faction quipped.
In the 301 strong central working committee, there are 100 women, as per the decision in October this year, and 19 top office bearers including seven vice-chairs of which one to be one senior vice-chair, one general secretary, three deputy-general secretaries and seven secretaries. There is now a 45-member standing Committee and a 99-member politburo. A Dalit leader, Chhabilal Bishwakarma is one of the seven secretaries The CWC includes 37 Adivasis/Janajatis. Yet the UML has failed to ensure inclusiveness while choosing its office bearers,” states Uddhab Pyakurel, a professor of political sociology at Kathmandu University. But Oli’s party comrades too failed to make him accountable for his actions, and on the contrary gave him an even bigger mandate which led to destruction of inner-party democracy.
The process of consolidation by newly-elected CWC had its first meeting in Sauraha where all office-bearers were elected. Discussions were held for organising the National Congress as well as to the erstwhile working committee. Oli directed the party rank and file to work with dedication so as to scoop a single victory for the party in the upcoming three tier elections. For Oli the national election is a do-or-die battle although he appears to have a distinct edge over his rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal a k a and Madhan Nepal, the leader of breakaway faction CPN (Socialist).
The grim reality is that Nepal is now amidst a democratic recession = deeper than the weakening democracies in other countries. In Nepal, the democratic system that was born with high expectations following the end of monarchy has failed to empower the marginalized section of society. ‘The irresponsible acts of the corrupt political parties have contributed to the people’s decreasing trust in parliamentary politics. Many younger Nepali voters are not interested in participating in general elections because they believe it to be an unproductive endeavor and to make matters worse’, wrote a senior columnist Bimal Prasad Shah.
The democracy in Nepal has become an abstract concept detached from heritage, traditions, emotions, and a sense of common belongings hyphenated from the Nepali culture and morality, born in Gorkha, a place where people of the region went to get justice in the 16th and 17th centuries .Tragically Nepali society is now desensitised and hostile to its spiritual heritage. (IPA Service)