Sunday, 25 February, 2024

UML Leaders Towards Reconciliation?

Narayan Upadhyay

After the rival lawmakers decided to shelve their plan to resign en masse at the last moment on May 13, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli received a much-needed lifeline. PM Oli would have left the office, had the bickering CPN-UML members of parliament resigned. Following the months of hurling charges against one another, bonhomie seems to have returned in the ruling party as differences have narrowed. The two feuding sides have agreed to sit for a purposeful, result-oriented dialogue by setting up a task force to sort out disputes. It has contributed to a sense of relief among the UML ranks and file. Earlier, the opposing side was all set to resign to unseat the party's chair from the PM's post and help opposition parties replace the Oli government under the Nepali Congress (NC) leadership.

Telling blow
However, after the party chair and PM withdrew the party’s action of suspending four senior leaders of the group and demonstrated willingness to address the rivals' demands, Nepal-Khanal group 'put on hold' their resignation. It paved the way for the feuding sides to find reconciliation in the UML. However, the road to new congeniality was strewn with bumps, though. Months of bickering between the rival and establishment side climaxed when the Prime Minister opted to seek a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives on May 10. With the legislators from the Nepal-Khanal faction delivering a telling blow by remaining absent from the voting, the PM lost the trust vote in the House and subsequently his PM's chair.
Nonetheless, Oli returned to the helm as the leader of the largest single party in the HoR after rival lawmakers did not quit their HoR membership. The failure of the opposition parties, the NC and CPN-Maoist Centre, to garner enough numbers to oust him came as a blessing for the UML chair. In the meantime, he received invaluable support from a section of the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) that declined to toe the line of its leaders Upendra Yadav and Babu Ram Bhattarai, who has nevertheless been gunning for the ouster of Oli.
The establishment faction saw the real threat coming to them in the shape of en-mass resignation of 28 lawmakers, forcing Oli to sit with senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal for a one-on-one meeting that formed a 10-member body to address differences. To find a stable solution to reach a perfect reconciliation, the establishment side must now respect the Nepal-Khanal group’s demand.
The rival camp had asked the UML must be reverted to the status of 16 May 2018, or Jestha 2, 2075 B.S., a day before the UML and Maoist Centre had unified to become a single communist entity - Nepal Communist Party (NCP). This demand is the bottom line of the opponent group that has likewise warned that they would not budge an inch from their demand. This group would not accept any 'dilly dallying tactic' in addressing its demand. Some of the opponent group members have raised their scepticism regarding the outcome of the dialogue in their favour.
Yet, the establishment side including the party chair appear confident to resolve the crisis. They are eager to address the key claim of the Nepal-Khanal group, which is indeed a good sign for the survival of the full term of the Oli's government. If the differing sides bury their hatchet for good, then PM Oli will have no trouble in securing the vote of confidence, which he must obtain within a month to remain in power. In case he cannot gain the majority support in the parliament, he might suffer the same fate as he did on May 10 when he lost the Parliament's confidence in his government. There is another issue to sort out for the PM and his ilk. The management of 23 central working committee members, who had left the Maoist Centre to join the UML, will be challenging task.
Nevertheless, things have proceeded towards the desirable direction for the two feuding groups. Let us hope sanity prevails among the warring factions and they opt to give continuity to the present government. This would without a doubt enable the present dispensation to direct its attention towards the most acute issue of the moment: protecting the people from the second wave of the deadly coronavirus pandemic.
The Oli government must work in tandem with public and private sector to control the virus spread and provide necessary health services to the afflicted persons. With the start of the second wave in the country, the poor capacity of our health facilities to negotiate with the raging pandemic has been exposed to the world. Rapid virus transmission has turned our existing health infrastructure inefficient against the virulent infection. Higher infection and death tolls have led many international organisations to raise their concerns regarding the severe COVID-19 situation. World Health Organisation has called its members states and global partners to provide vaccines and medical relief to Nepal. This speaks volumes about the horrid situation reflected in the higher daily infection and death figures.
At this crucial juncture, our government requires mobilising all its capabilities and seek support and aid from friendly nations and foreign donors to bring vaccines and medical equipment. It will do well to expand our health infrastructure facilities to handle the growing cases of infection. A steady import of COVID-19 vaccines is key to take on the contagion.

To carry out efforts against the dreaded illness, there must not be any distraction to the present government. The ongoing intra-party bickering has developed into one among many such aberrations to the Oli government. Reconciliation in the ruling dispensation would lend enough confidence to the government, enabling it to concentrate its attention on the control of the pandemic and addressing other gaping problems. Leaders and workers, therefore, should strive in unison to render the current reconciliation process a reality.
Any distraction might throw cold water on the ruling party’s and the government’s zeal to defeat the pandemic and save as many lives as it can. At this ominous hour, when the government has drawn flak for its poor handling of the pandemic, a concerted attempt to fight the raging disease can improve its image in the eyes public and international community.

(Upadhyay is Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal.