The factional politics in the CPN (UML) has not only put the party in disarray but has also brought the country's political and economic course to a standstill. Since the March 7 Supreme Court verdict that nullified the merger between the UML and the CPN-MC, the rival factions in the UML have engaged in washing each other's dirty linen in public, making the leaders a laughing stock of the people.
The arbitrary ways of the PM are making it more and more difficult to effect a reconciliation with the rival faction
Logically, it would seem the onus lies on KP Sharma Oli, as not only the leader of the establishment faction of the CPN (UML) but also as the executive head, to extend an olive branch to the rival faction in a bid to keep party unity. However, the arbitrary ways of the Prime Minister are making it more and more difficult to effect a reconciliation with the rival faction headed by Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhalanath Khanal, who too have been carrying out parallel activities in the party.
On Saturday, the Nepal-Khanal faction had boycotted both the party's Central Committee and Parliamentary Party (PP) meetings, much to the ire of Oli, although this was expected. In response, the establishment faction of the UML has sought an explanation from Nepal and three others, namely, Surendra Panday, Bhim Rawal and Ghanashyam Bhusal for carrying out factional activities in the party. And they face other disciplinary action should their rejoinder fail to amuse Oli. A 24-member Parliamentary Board under the PM has been formed to take disciplinary action against anyone who dares violate the party rules and norms.
Oli has been unilaterally taking one measure after another, amending the party statute at will, geared towards strengthening his position in the party by replacing his rivals with his loyals. A revised Parliamentary Party statute gives the PP leader the power to nominate his deputy. The Nepal-Khanal faction, on the other hand, have been insisting that the PM revive the party committees that existed before the UML's merger with the CPN-MC and also take back the decision to amend the party statute to induct 23 Maoist leaders to the party's Central Committee.
Since Prime Minister KP Oli dissolved the parliament on December 20 and called for the mid-term elections, the political developments have only made the country's future course uncertain. This is particularly worrisome given that we are in the midst of a pandemic that has left no sector untouched. There is no unison of the parties or leaders on a way out of the political mess. There are calls for the Prime Minister to resign on moral ground, as some of his ministers have done in the past. Others see no solution other than to go for the mid-term polls. Different political parties and groups have been in touch to form some sort of a coalition government, but a workable equation has not been forthcoming so far. It is evident that all that the leaders are interested in is power. With their antics and inaction, never have the leaders fallen so low in the eyes of the people. As the Prime Minister of the country, Oli must do what is best for his party and the people, even if this hurts his ego, to bring political stability so that the country can move forward economically.
Nepal has made noticeable progress in protecting its natural forests thanks to the effective implementation of the concept of community forestry that has been in practice for several decades. Nepal's total forest cover stands at around 40 per cent, which has been able to maintain the environment and ecosystem.
The country has also started earning foreign currency under the World Bank's Emission Reduction Payment Agreement. Under this agreement, Nepal anticipates the sale of 9 million tons of carbon dioxide at US$ 5 per ton and earn a total of US$ 45 million annually.
However, the local communities, especially the marginalised ones, have not been able to benefit from the natural forests that we have due to the government's lax policies regarding the use of forest products. We generally understand a forest product to mean only timber. Forrest areas can be leased to the landless or poor families, who can be allowed to grow medicinal herbs and other cash crops without affecting the big plants that can be used as timber.
The local levels can also formulate a Local Forest Act that can promote entrepreneurship. Using the natural forests as a source of income for the locals can also solve the problem of unemployment.
A version of this article appears in the print on March 22, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.