The main factor that creates intraparty conflict is the quarrel among the top leaders of the party where ego assumes center stage and principles are demoted to the back bench. KP Oli believed that he was head and shoulders above his party mates, which was not true given the presence of several leaders of equal rank
The country has witnessed three unusual political phenomena surrounding the UML, one of the main political vanguards of Nepal in the recent past spanning less than five years. Firstly, it merged itself with the Maoist Centre Party. This was portrayed as a marriage of convenience in the political circle as there was very little common in their ideology apart from a solitary tag of communism, which was more like the exhibitory surficial tooth of an elephant.
The chewing tooth was diagonally opposite as reflected by the lavish living style of the communist leaders.
It initially reaped deep dividends, leading to the formation of a government enjoying a near two-thirds majority in the parliament.
The honeymoon did not last long as it moved towards a forceful termination following the controversial decision of the court. Even otherwise, the parties were tottering down the precipice of termination.
Soon thereafter, it had to undergo division as a vertical political crevice had already formed during the period marked by incredible ups and downs.
Thus the UML had to sustain double fatal blows while the Prachanda and the Madhav Nepal groups were also badly scarred in the process.
What caused the speedy fallout? Why did the termination of the merger trigger the division? These are some of the questions that still haunt and will continue to do so in the future. It is especially so when the opposition party was in deep slumber to the extent that it happened to support the plans and policies of the government, often losing its oppositional flavour.
The leader of the opposition, Sher Bahadur Deuba, was literally caught unawares when the crown of the Prime Minister fell on his head virtually from nowhere.
Only one person had forecast the return of the opposition to power, and that was the solitary astrologer of Deuba.
A study made of 68 mergers of 21 governments of Post-War Europe by Nicole Bolleyer has, however, highlighted several interesting factors that contribute to the survival or termination of merger partners.
It is interesting to note that it is applicable to the merger and termination as well as division seen in UML.
Several hypotheses have been drawn in the study based on the conceptualisation of merger termination as instances of new party formation, coalition termination and institutionalisation failure. First, merger is less likely to be terminated if there is little legislative support between the merging parties. Second, it is vulnerable if the legislative performance declines in the post-merger period. Third, a higher parliamentary threshold also dampens the pace of termination.
These are not applicable in the case of Nepal because there was no post-merger election, excepting a few by-elections nor is there provision of minimum votes required for entry into the parliament.
Fourth, the higher the number of constituent parties the more chances are of termination. Fifth, similarity in ideology is helpful for evading termination.
Sixth, the higher the institutionalisation of the previously cooperating merging parties, the lesser is the likelihood of termination.
Last but not the least, previous cooperation interplay among the institutionalised constituent parties also minimises chances of termination.
The Dutch Groen Links party has been presented as an example of survival, which emerged after the merger of the Political Radical Party, the Pacifist Socialist Party, the Communist Party of the Netherlands and Evangelical People's Party. The merger knot tightened further as the post-merger election yielded more seats, proving the first two hypotheses. Moreover, the institutionalisation of the post-merger phase became very helpful as they selected a leader from outside who went to create unity among the constituent parties. It corrected the weakness arising out of a larger number of constituent parties.
Likewise, the United Socialist Party has been portrayed as the example of termination formed after the merger of Italian Socialist Party and the Italian Democratic Socialist Party.
It more or less obeys the aforementioned hypotheses.
Firstly, its seats declined in the election held after the merger. Besides, both the constituents were highly institutionalised.
Very little effort was made towards their integration.
They continued as coalition partners more than a joint organisation. Despite having ideological proximity, they did not sail together because of the diagonally opposite factions present in the party.
Certainly, the CPN's merger termination was triggered by the decision of the court. But the termination appeared round the corner when judged against the aforementioned hypotheses. Superficially, it appeared that there were only two parties which merged, and they had ideological similarity.
But it was not the case because the Madhav Nepal group had developed rapidly as a third party. Moreover, deep inside, the ideological difference was also huge as one believed in multi-party democracy whilst the other believed in New Party Democracy. The lack of pre-merger cooperation and cooperation interplay also triggered termination.
All the three concepts appeared right due to the formation of the new party, the break-up of the coalition and the lack of post-merger institutionalisation.
Well coming down to the division, the main factor that creates intraparty conflict is the quarrel among the top leaders of the party where ego assumes center stage and principles are demoted to the back bench.
Then Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli was primarily responsible for the division even though Madhav Nepal and Prachanda were not far behind. Oli believed that he was head and shoulders above his party mates, which was not true given the presence of several political leaders of equal rank. It is no wonder then that the UML has been mired in deep political morass, the escape from which is likely to take a long time and, of course, much longer to reach the erstwhile position.
A version of this article appears in the print on September 1, 2021 of The Himalayan Times.