Ironically, Deuba’s ordinance seems to have also directly benefited Mahanta Thakur, who had also been demoted from the JSP’s Central Committee for supporting Oli.
If it were not for the ordinance, Thakur would not have been able to muster the 40% of parliamentary party membership that was earlier required to register his own JSP (Democratic).
The UML split despite efforts by the rank-and-file to keep it together only because Oli and Nepal could not get along. Nepal accused Oli of authoritarianism, and Oli was angry about Nepal siding with the opposition alliance to unseat him. But at the heart of it was an ego-clash between Nepal’s top communists.
‘Nepal’s communist movement is built on the revolutionary vision of our forefathers and the sacrifices of thousands of martyrs and warriors, and we want to prevent it from collapse,’ Madhav Nepal said in a statement. “To achieve our goal, and to move in the direction of scientific socialism, we must take firm steps towards our national independence and self-respect.’
The UML was established in 1990 after the unity of two communist factions, and split before in 1997 only to be reunited three years later. There is no reason why it cannot do so again if Oli and Nepal are out of the picture.
Deuba’s five-party coalition has undoubtedly been playing the long game, with eyes on the 2023 local, provincial and federal polls and to recoup its drubbing in 2017. The bigger question now is how the hydra-headed five party alliance is going to divide up the spoils of government ahead of those elections.
But as farsighted as Deuba may be about political strategy, he has not been as efficient in forming a government to tackle the country’s multiple crises. He has been unable to expand his cabinet beyond four ministers, and Nepal’s foreign and labour ministries at a crucial time remain without a leader even as thousands of Nepalis trapped in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan await repatriation.
The delay is due to Deuba having to balance conflicting claims to senior ministerial berths from his alliance partners. He has to appease his once arch-enemy Pushpa Kamal Dahal, accommodate the kingmaker JSP, and reward Nepal for bringing in the swing votes to oust Oli.
All the while, he has to keep rival factions within his own party led by Ram Chandra Poudel at bay.
This political disarray among Nepal’s three biggest parties is to the advantage of the royal-Hindu-right parties who want to cash in on public disillusionment by flagging secularism, federalism and even republicanism as being unsuitable for Nepal.
Rabindra Mishra of the alternative Bibeksheel-Sajha party has felt the public pulse, and knows there is considerable support for Nepal reverting to a Hindu state, if not a monarchy, and called for a referendum.
Factions in the other parties also sympathise with this potentially potent election agenda, some more openly than others. The fierce reaction from mainstream parties against Mishra shows just how insecure they have become, but even this threat to roll back the Constitution has not been enough to end the infighting between and within them.
Like all alliances, this will be fickle, driven by the self-interest of politicians with one eye on elections.