Sunday, 25 February, 2024

What Ails The CPN-UML?

What Ails The CPN-UML?

Narayan Upadhyay

Thrown out of power some six months ago, the main opposition, CPN-UML, under the tutelage of its chair and former prime minister KP Sharma Oli, has engaged in parliament's disruption. The UML and its chair have come under fire from those who maintain that the parliament is the sovereign body of the people. No party can stall its business under any pretence. Despite this, Oli and his party loyalists have a single-point agenda: to give continuity to House disruption, even though they lack a rational reason for taking such a measure that has drawn ire for the party from different quarters. 

Oli and his ilk have forgotten parliamentary democracy's fundamental facts - the parliamentarians who obstruct the House proceedings commit a cardinal sin of sabotaging the people's right of having a well-functioning parliament, which presents important bills, passes laws and discusses issues about the nation’s welfare. The UML parliamentarians committed a serious mistake by infringing upon such rights, for which the people may take them to task when the nation’s goes to periodic polls next year.

What has bothered a leader of Oli's stature who has encouraged his lawmakers to engage in such an anti-parliamentary act? There may be several reasons behind what many term undemocratic actions of halting the House businesses. 

Firstly, Oli is dismayed to see his nemesis and former party comrade, Madhav Kumar Nepal, and a few other party rebels not only attending the parliament sessions as 'bona fide' members but becoming an integral part of the current government. Despite trying to get the parliament membership of these rebel lawmakers annulled, his attempts came a cropper, enraging him further. The very presence of rebel lawmakers in the House and the government has unsettled Oli to the hilt, spurring him to resort to undemocratic and anti-parliamentary measures of disrupting the House ever since the coalition government was formed.

Rebel lawmakers and leader Nepal played a crucial role in toppling the "regressive" Oli government and reinstating the House of Representatives (HoR) that Oli had dissolved twice. After forming the new party, CPN-Unified-Socialist, they joined forces with the Nepali Congress, CPN-Maoist Centre, Janata Samajbadi Party and Ratriya Janamorcha Nepal to create the coalition government. Many political analysts said that Oli could have caused irreversible harm to our constitution and parliamentary polity if the parties had not forced him out of power. His departure was necessary, for which the five parties formed an alliance, much to the chagrin of Oli and his loyalists.

Ever since the five-party coalition government came to its existence, UML lawmakers are obstructing the House to protest against Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota, who, according to Oli, did not end the parliamentary membership of the UML rebels for which the party had submitted a formal application. 

While egging on Speaker Sapkota, Oli and his party comrades forgot a key fact - the move by rebel UML lawmakers did not breach any constitutional arrangements or parliamentary rules. The Supreme Court, through its historic verdict, had exempted all legislators of any party whip when they went for electing the new Prime Minister as per article 76 (5). Likewise, when the UML rebels and a few others broke away from the UML, they were shielded by an ordinance that allowed a new party by 20 per cent of a total number of parliamentarians or central working committee members.

As they could not force former UML lawmakers out of parliament, the UML legislators turned their indignation towards the Speaker, which has exposed its other facade: the party under Oli has no respect for democratic values and parliamentary code of conduct. The UML chair has shown a proclivity not only to subvert the constitution and democratic culture but has wished to run his party on whims.

Oli is best known for taking retaliatory moves against any of his party colleagues if the latter shows gumption to speak against him. Many senior UML leaders are his yes-men, lacking the guts to raise voices against him. After the party's 10th national congress in Chitwan, Oli has emerged stronger to help him further tighten his grip on the party. These days he is interested in breaking the five-party ruling coalition. He will rally behind the government and NC president Deuba in endorsing the MCC if the latter breaks the coalition and sides with the UML.

In the meantime, Oli's nefarious move to disrupt parliamentary proceedings before the general election, due next year, shows he has no regard for resolving issues of national interest. Many ordinances lie in the House, but the UML chair showed no intention of holding discussions on important ordinances. 

Pressing issues
The nation has faced the most pressing issues, such as endorsing the MCC Nepal Compact and troubles with the judiciary. But the UML chief does not intend to play his part in resolving them. His declaration that his party has yet to form its opinion on the MCC has surprised many! He has another deep-seated wish - his party will not allow the House to work so that the five-party leaders will dissolve it for the sake of holding early polls. But coalition leaders threw cold water on Oli's design after they pledged to keep the coalition and keep the HoR intact.

The main opposition party has suffered because of Oli's uncompromising, irresponsible and whimsical actions. Under him, the UML lost its control over federal and provincial governments. Unquestionably, the party under Oli has lost its credibility among the people. Against such a backdrop, one can see that Oli's party is heading towards a debacle in three-tier elections. The CPN – Unified Socialist, Maoist Centre), Janata Samajbadi and, most importantly, the Nepali Congress have aimed at taking advantage of the growing unpopularity of Oli.

(Upadhyay is managing editor of this daily.