UML-Maoist unification still uncertain
The growing rift between the two ruling communist parties—CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre has culminated in the postponement of their longawaited unification process. According to the Nagarik daily and the Annapurna Post, the two parties have postponed the meetings relating to their unification. Before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Nepal visit, the two parties had stated to conclude the unification process after Modi’s visit. However, the rift between the two parties widened during Modi’s visit, especially when the Energy Minister Barsha Man Pun was bypassed while signing agreement and inaugurating the Arun III project. The Maoist Centre objected to not include the Energy Ministry in the ceremony. This ultimately resulted in the boycott of the civic reception of the Indian Prime Minister in Kathmandu by the Maoist Ministers. Even in the parliament, Maoist spokesperson Pampha Bhushal objected to the Arun III agreement and demanded that the agreement should be endorsed by a two-thirds majority in the parliament. On Monday’s meeting, the Maoist lawmakers raised questions about the Arun III project, entry of the Indian commandos to Nepal during Modi’s visit and the controversial remarks of chief minister Lalbabu Raut of Province 2 while the UML lawmakers raised question about competency of Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa. Even Prime Minister K P Oli and Maoist boss Pushpa Kamal Dahal have not hold meetings for days, which signal that all is not well with the unification process. The crux of the difference between the two parties was the deliberate omission of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation Minister Pun, who belongs to the CPN-Maoist Centre and regarded to be a powerful leader of the party, during the ceremony organised to remotely lay the foundation stone of the 900MW Arun III Hydropower Project. The mega hydro project was jointly inaugurated by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Modi. Obviously, Pun was not happy with the manner in which the Oli-led Investment Board Nepal was allowed to grant generation license to Arun III project, bypassing the Department of Electricity Development, which is the authorised agency to grant such permits.
Maoist leaders are also not happy about the Cabinet’s decision to seek clarification from Nepal Telecom Managing Director Kamini Rajbhandari, who was appointed on the recommendation of the CPNMC. Rajbhandari was asked to clarify why she should not be removed from the top post of the state-owned enterprise. If the rift between the two parties widens further, there is a risk the present government may collapse on any day if the Maoist Centre withdraws its ministers from the government. However, Maoist leader Dahal may not go to the extent of pulling down the government as the UML had saved his party in the elections. However, if the unification process comes to a complete halt, Dahal may soon take a decision to teach a lesson to PM Oli by withdrawing his support, because after the fall of the Oli-led government, Dahal will be the sole prime ministerial candidate in the support of the Nepali Congress and the Madhes-based parties.