Sunday, 25 February, 2024

Ego Clash Fuels UML’s Feud

Liladhar Upadhyaya

Nepali politicians, who often project themselves either as democrats or communists, mostly grew up in a feudal and semi-feudal social milieu. Despite the embrace of modern ideas and technology, residues of feudalism have not gone away from the society. Politicians of all hues have yet to completely get rid of their feudal character, attitude and behaviour. The CPN-UML leaders and their followers are not an exception. Nonetheless, the UML’s organisational structures and activities have been moulded into democratic frame decades back. It has held general conventions regularly, picked leadership through voting, discipline cadres, strengthened organisational wings and developed sound financial system.
These democratic elements have enabled the party to win the support of larger segment of electorates during the elections. People still have trust in UML and want to see the party united. Division and reorganisation form the common characteristics of the communist movement that Nepali communists never got tired of regurgitating time and again. Credit to start the democratisation process within UML goes to its charismatic leader late Madan Bhandari who propounded people’s multiparty democracy (PMD) that stipulates that the communists can bring about drastic social changes by the means of ballot in the 21st century. Maoist rebels, who waged a decade-long insurgency, also recognised the power of ballot and joined peaceful politics by renouncing the armed movement.
Leader Bhandari had incorporated the fundamentals of democratic polity like periodic elections, separation of powers, independent judiciary, press freedom, social justice, constitutionalism, theory of check and balance and economic transparency in the party programme and manifesto. With this democratic evolution, the UML emerged as a strong force as well as a viable alternative to Nepali Congress, the oldest existing centrist political party.

Damaging ego
Ego is not always bad, but it may ruin a person or an institution if it is not managed properly. Every person having institutional and greater public responsibility should be able to manage his/her ego. Avoiding ego-based politics is the need of time. People want system-based politics but leaders are displaying ego-guided politics. The UML is undergoing the worst conflict because of the personality clash among the top leaders, precipitating the party on verge of split. Party chairman KP Sharma Oli and senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal are standing on opposite banks of the same river. The UML and CPN-Maoist Centre got unified to create Nepal Communist Party. The idea of making a single communist party fell through in the middle because of ego-based politics of the top brass.
Two former prime ministers Oli and Nepal have been involved in bitter clashes of ego. They are not ready to recognise each other’s existence. As a result, the party has been deprived of government leadership and forced to take the opposition bench. It is a big loss not only for Oli but also the party. Ironically, Oli opted for the opposition bench but refused to compromise with the Nepal-Khanal group to save the party unity. In a similar vein, Nepal was even ready to cross the floor to avenge Oli, defying the possible party action. Much of Oli’s activities as party chair and Prime Minister have drawn flak from different quarters. Two communist leaders, who have a long history of working together, are now playing a losing game instead of creating possible win-win situation. The party's lawmakers crossed the floor to make rival NC president Sher Bahadur Deuba Prime Minister on July 18.
Now, under a variety of provocations, the UML unity bid has taken a hard knock. Provocation is an irritating activity or speech that makes targeted people angry. Provocation has poisoned politics and driving the politicians crazy. Multiple actors such as media, party functionaries, advisors or even the external forces have staged a series of provocations to fuel the conflict within the UML.
History is a witness to the fact that the communists are smart enough in using the derogatory words to provoke and taunt their opponents within and outside the party. They do not hesitate to accuse their own fellows of being gaddar (betrayer), reactionary, regressive, spy and anti-nationalists as the latter air differing views. Provocative expressions from multiple players put the leaders in hot water. For instance, UML's top leaders are involved in nasty blame game, which is immature and undemocratic act. If the UML had contested the polls in 2018 on its own, it could not have garnered highest number of seats in the parliament. It will suffer a big loss if it goes to election without forging unity in the party.
However, some short-sighted advisors, sycophants and mafias are provoking the party leadership to go for election bypassing another group. Provocation is still going on. Getting public support should not be judged on a whim. Leaders should be rational and shun ego-based politics and provocations.

Collective strength
Nepali leaders have shown remarkable negotiating capacity and compromise in the past. They are mature enough to settle every political crisis, particularly since the 12-point agreement. They had demonstrated collective strength and wisdom to institute republican set-up, federalism, secularism and improved parliamentary party in Nepal. With their commitment to multiparty democracy, peaceful transformation and equitable development of society, they have earned praise from the wider political spectrum. The political parties, be it small or big, should not be divided. Party system should be strengthened further to sustain democracy. Nation witnessed incidents like armed insurgency and royal takeover at a time when political parties became weak owing to inter- and intra-party feuds.
Political leadership should show liberal attitudes to build more democratic and resilient society in the days to come. Further democratisation of communists is the need of the hour because they are not just the alternative political force but also the agenda setters of Nepali politics for change and progress. Driven by ego, chairman Oli and senior leader Nepal have indulged in a war of attrition and vendetta. There is no alternative to coming to a rational compromise because people and cadres, who have made their sacrifices in building the UML, want unity and reconciliation. Given that there are no fundamental ideological differences between the feuding leaders, the current deadlock can be fixed through constructive talks and negotiation. They must bear in mind that the party like UML can’t be created overnight. Leaders should realise this fact in time and shed their parochial attitude for a better future of the nation and people.

(Upadhyaya is associate editor of TRN.