‘Gulf between government, party widening’

The two co-chairs of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal had claimed they would finish the merger of all party committees within three months, but even after a year, the lower committees of the party have not merged as the party’s top leaders are trying to ensure representation of their loyalists in these committees. NCP leaders are also criticising the party leadership for not allocating responsibilities to central committee leaders. Jagdishor Panday of The Himalayan Times caught up with NCP standing committee member Ghana Shyam Bhusal to know about the organisational problems the party is facing. Excerpts:

Your party-led government has finished one year in office. How do you evaluate the KP Sharma Oli-led government’s performance?

If you look at the government’s performance in one year from the party’s point of view, it becomes clear that the party has not recognised the government. There has been no discussion in the party on the major decisions of the government. There was no discussion in the party when the government was formed under Oli’s premiership. The government’s working style is not discussed in the party. When the government brought the new budget and policies and programmes, there was no discussion on those issues in the party. Not only that, there was no debate in the party when the chairs of parliamentary committees were elected and new ambassadors were nominated. There has been no discussion in the party while making political appointments. In a nutshell, I can say that there is no communication between the government and the party. My understanding is that if the government fails to follow the party’s policies, it won’t function well.

The government’s decisions should reflect janamat (people’s mandate). That happens only when the government follows the party’s policies. The party is a mediator between the people and the government, but I think the party has not been able to play that role.

But when I see the performance of individual ministries, I find some ministries performing well. But the fact is, performance of one minister or ministry is not sufficient. The main part is the overall functioning of the government.

Why do you think the overall performance is bad? Do you think delay in party unification is adversely impacting the government’s performance?

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli should do more to improve the government’s performance. Issues related to party unification should not affect any government’s performance. It’s been 13 months since the CPN-MC and CPN-UML merged to create NCP (NCP), yet the merger process remains incomplete. Merger processes can be completed within a month. The party’s functions are not based on any system. This means there are problems both in the NCP and the government.

You said the party has not recognised the government. How can there be good coordination between the party and the government?

The former CPN-UML tackled all major issues democratically. Party leaders were democratically chosen. CP Mainali was replaced by Jhalanath Khanal and Khanal was replaced by Madan Bhandari. Again Bhandari was replaced by Madhav Kumar Nepal and Nepal was replaced by Khanal again. This time Khanal was replaced by KP Sharma Oli. The UML had always followed a tradition of making decisions official after discussing issues in the bodies concerned. In the past, our government and party followed democratic process while taking major decisions.  This means the UML ensured democracy within the party. I agree we made mistakes in the past, but there was democracy within the party that helped us not to repeat those mistakes. Problems started cropping up within the party after the ninth general convention of the former CPN-UML. Merger between former UML and Maoist Centre piled up more problems. After the merger, the powers of the party basically rested in the hands of the two co-chairs, but they didn’t come up with solutions.

If the government’s performance is poor it’s because there is lack of coordination between the party and the government. The party faces problems because the leadership has failed to ensure that all major decisions are taken democratically.

The two co-chairs promised that they would complete the party’s merger within three months but even after 13 months, they have not been able to do what they had promised.

The two co-chairs do not inform party leaders about the major issues. Neither do they call meetings frequently. After the merger, there was only one occasion when a meeting of the Standing Committee was called. Although I have reservations about the rules party leaders made regarding the meeting, I can cite one rule they have not followed. They decided to hold the Standing Committee meeting every three months, but they have not followed this rule. The Central Committee meeting was held only once after the two parties unified. The party’s Secretariat meetings also are not conducted as valid meetings of an institution. The Secretariat does not have power to take decisions. We came from a background where the party chair and general members of the party had the same status. Our party’s statute stipulates that power lies in the general members of the party. Now, internal democracy in the party is eroding and this problem will give rise to individualism, arbitrariness, arrogance, and favouritism in the party. Our leadership is taking arbitrary decisions and the leaders who hold power are arrogant.

There is a power tussle between the two co-chairs —  Oli and Dahal. How do you look at their rivalry?

As I mentioned earlier, if an organisation does not follow a system then personal interest will dominate the party’s functions. There is no understanding between the two co-chairs regarding power sharing.

I think Prime Minister Oli is mainly responsible for the sorry state of the party because he has not been following any process. In one standing committee meeting, Oli presented his document and wanted the members to pass it as it is. It is true  there are problems between Oli and Dahal. Central Secretariat members should also be blamed for allowing the party leadership to ignore the democratic process. If one leader has to be blamed for the current mess in the party, I must say it is Prime Minister Oli.

Is it true that senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal’s strong push for ‘one person, one post’ rule has led to stalemate in the party on matters of allocating roles to party leaders in lower committees?

The party should follow democratic process, a process that values rule-based system. In today’s world we can engage people only through a rule-based system. If our party falters on this, we will fail to fulfil people’s aspirations. If the party fails to follow a clear system, then factionalism will emerge in the party. If a party is plagued by factionalism, then international forces can easily play their games in that party.

CPN-UML and CPN Maoist Centre had their own political ideologies with the former pursuing People’s Multi-Party Democracy and the latter following the 21st century People’s Democracy, but the cadres of the unified NCP (NCP) do not know what the party’s ideology is.

As far as the party’s ideology is concerned, I think some problems started after the UML’s ninth general convention. What the ninth GC had passed was not propagated. What Oli had been advocating was not party ideology because he was defeated in the GC. Now, after the merger, top leaders had agreed on what could be the unified party’s political ideology and I think the issue was ratified by the party’s Standing Committee, but again this decision has not been made public.

The Standing Committee had endorsed the party’s ideology and okayed its publication, but I don’t know why the political document has not been made public.

Central secretarial member Ishwor Pokharel and Co-chair Dahal are saying two different things about the party’s ideology.

What Pokharel and Dahal say does not matter. What matters is the political document that the standing committee had endorsed. The agreement that helped the two parties unify is important. What we need to do is abide by the agreement of unity.  The leaders can advocate their own views on certain agenda, but we should follow what we have agreed. Our party has not made any rule about how we can internally discuss certain issues. If the party follows the right kind of tradition and allows all leaders to put forth their views on issues, then that will be more systematic. If the power of lakhs of party cadres is reflected in the party’s decision, then that will definitely change the party and the government within six months. Then only can our leaders be successful and boast of their achievements.

How do you see other parties’ role in the country at present?

I do not want to talk about other parties. I just want to talk about the Nepali Congress, the main opposition party. The NC is in ideological confusion. They say they champion the cause of socialism propounded by their late president BP Koirala, but they have not defined it till now. The NC is not engaging itself on major issues of the country. The NC cannot talk seriously on good governance. They can talk on certain agenda, but cannot discuss their overall perspective of the system. They can talk on the problems facing land revenue offices, but they cannot offer any solutions.  The NC is too week and that’s why it has not been able to play its role properly.