China’s Mission Nepal suffers a huge setback. PM Oli didn’t play ball
The Chinese delegation deputed by President Xi Jinping to unite the faction-ridden ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) wrapped up its four-day visit on Wednesday, unable to deliver on its objective or even forge an alternative alliance led by the communists for national elections scheduled for next year, people familiar with the development said.
Guo Yezhou, a vice-minister of the International Department of the Communist Party of China’s central committee, who led a four-member core team of communist party leaders, boarded a flight out of Kathmandu’s airport on Wednesday morning after meetings with Nepal Communist Party leaders including Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli; and his two prime rivals within, former prime ministers Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda and Madhav Nepal, over the last few days.
PM Oli had responded to a barrage of attacks from the faction led by Prachanda and Madhav Nepal by dissolving the House of Representatives on December 20 and recommending fresh elections. He later explained in a televised address that his decision was a pre-emptive strike against his rivals who were going to bring a no-trust motion against him in Parliament.
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PM Oli’s move has set the stage for a formal split of the ruling NCP that was formed in 2018 by the merger of PM Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) and Prachanda’s Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist Centre. The 2018 merger was facilitated by China’s Guo Yezhou.
Back in Nepal 34 months after the February 2018 visit that is credited to have helped build the foundation for the NCP, Nepal watchers said Guo Yezhou worked on several options to retain the dominance of the communist parties in Nepal’s politics during his four-day visit that ended Wednesday.
The first was to convince PM Oli to rescind the recommendation to dissolve the 275-member House of Representatives on an assurance from the NCP’s Prachanda-Madhav Nepal faction to let him continue. But PM Oli didn’t agree because there was no guarantee that the Prachanda-Madhav Nepal faction would try to pull down his government and come to power. PM Oli is, however, learnt to have told the Guo Yezhou-led delegation that fresh elections were the only solution to the stalemate between the two sides. Prachanda and Nepal hadn’t agreed to give any commitment to the Chinese team either, demanding that PM Oli should reverse the order to dissolve parliament first.
Guo Yezhou’s team also explored the possibility of mobilising an alternative government led by the communist party - but minus PM Oli - in case the dissolution is reversed by the five-judge bench of the Supreme Court. In this format, the team looked at the possibility of getting the Prachanda-Madhav Nepal support from opposition parties such as Janata Samajbadi Party boss Baburam Bhattarai and even Sher Bahadur Deuba’s Nepali Congress. This alternative fits well with the narrative being pushed by the opposition parties that pointedly targets PM Oli, and not the Prachanda-Madhav Nepal faction.
The top court is hearing more than a dozen petitions that have challenged parliament’s dissolution on grounds that there was no provision in the constitution to dissolve the house if any party or alliance could mobilise the majority.
In their conversations with both factions of the NCP, the Chinese team are also learnt to have floated the possibility of PM Oli and Prachanda factions papering over their differences to jointly contest the national elections scheduled to be held in two phases on April 30 and May 10 and let the electoral verdict decide who leads the next government. PM Oli, however, rejected this formulation right away.
Guo Yezhou’s mission in Nepal also reached out to the next generation of Nepal Communist Party leaders from both camps to get them to nudge their seniors to keep the party united. Among the second rung NCP leaders who met the Chinese delegations are former ministers Ghanshyam Bhusal, Yogesh Bhattarai and Janardan Sharma from the Prachanda camp. From PM Oli’s camp, the team met foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali, energy minister Barsaman Pun and standing committee member Shanker Pokhrel who are believed to have PM Oli’s trust.