"Unity with the Maoists did not work out"
Interview with UML party spokesperson, foreign minister and K P Oli loyalist Pradeep Gyawali, in which he defends the prime minister's moves to get the party back on track. This interview was taken before Monday’s six-month suspension of Madhav Kumar Nepal and Bhim Rawal from the UML.
Nepali Times: How fruitful was the recent parliamentary party meeting at Baluwatar to resolve the dispute within the UML, given that MPs from the Madhav Kumar Nepal faction were also present in the discussions?
Pradeep Gyawali: Our colleagues kept their word to attend the meeting, which was a positive development. Their constant disobedience and absence from party meetings have been deepening the chasm between members, festering mistrust, and weakening the foundations of party unity.
It is not uncommon for members of one party to have different opinions on various issues. However, the very leaders who had vowed to fight and oust chairperson PM Oli after Parliament reconvened, urged him to play the role of guardian in the party during the meeting. The fact that they attended the meeting and put forward constructive ideas is an acknowledgement that it is important to be united as we move forward.
But Chairperson PM Oli during the meeting termed the clarifications of Madhav Kumar Nepal and Bhim Rawal as 'actionable'. Does this mean that there is still a long way to go before the UML is united?
The Prime Minister clearly said during the meeting at Dhumbarahi on 15 March that even though some of the things that happened before Parliament was restored can be forgotten, many of the activities to undermine party unity that took place during that time cannot be overlooked. The events that took place after 7 March also cannot be ignored, and he has vowed to take them seriously. His, and the General Secretary’s instructions not to conduct the national gathering of party cadres was disobeyed. Indeed, gathering under the UML banner actively promotes factionalism and is a deliberate attempt to divide the party.
On the one hand, Pushpa Kamal Dahal is saying that Madhav Nepal was sent to infiltrate the UML to capture it or rebel, and then to have the Maoists talk about changing the party name, with constant meetings between Dahal and Nepal, then there was all the threatening language from the two leaders– those are the reasons why a clarification was demanded.
Prachanda did not have the capacity to divide the NCP, it was only because Madhav Kumar Nepal egged him on. That is what the prime minister was alluding to at the parliamentary party meeting. Then they tried to split the NCP itself, treated KP Oli in an insulting manner, and hatched plots in Khumaltar and Bhaisepati. Chairperson Oli only wants two things: that they will not indulge in factionalism, and some remorse for their past actions. But the clarification from Madhav Nepal does none of it, instead it has unacceptable language.
But they say Chairperson Oli did not include them in party affairs with open arms.
The Chairperson has always welcomed them with open arms. He did not take action even when they tried to remove him from the position of the head of the parliamentary party, chairmanship, and prime ministership.
We had united with the Maoists in 2018 because the party was rife with contradictions and was falling apart, we thought the UML with its democratic credentials could bring the Maoists into the democratic fold. Even though it was risky. Unfortunately, we couldn't revert Murphy's law.
How does the ruling party feel about the fact that there seems to be a full-scale competition to form a coalition government after the reinstatement of the House?
The government, seeing no way out from Parliament, had decided to go for a fresh mandate last December. Given that things don’t look very encouraging a month after the House reconvened, our analysis seems to have been correct.
The fact is, we still have a majority government per Article 76 (2) of the Constitution. Therefore, as the largest party in Parliament, we are in discussions with other parties, some of which are regarding government formation while others relate to various other political matters. Our focus remains how we can move the country forward, rather than on how we can retain the present government.
Since the Maoist Centre has not withdrawn its support to the UML government, how likely is it that the UML-Maoist Centre coalition government will continue?
That depends on the Maoist Centre. I don't think they are in a position to easily withdraw their support for the government, because it will have many consequences. And although we want the government to be led by the left, we are not interested in making unnecessary compromises.
How far have you come regarding discussions with Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP)?
The discussions have been positive. We are in talks with the JSP regarding issues that the party has been raising since the past, including amendments to the constitution, the release of party leaders and activists, as well as the repercussions of the Madhes movement.
One area of discussion is their concern be addressed within the framework of the Constitution and the law. Moreover, there is also is a possibility of them participating in the government, provided we can come to an agreement.
Some Nepali Congress leaders want to get together with the UML to form the next government. Is this possible?
I do not see it happening. Nepali Congress is the main opposition party, and as far as I understand, it wants to remain that way. The first and second largest parties do not form a government together unless it is a government of national consensus.
This also depends upon the NC’s decision. There will be other possible coalitions in Parliament to form a government, and we will not stand in their way if they want to join legally.
Is the government still in favour of a fresh mandate?
We are not in favour of a fresh mandate at present, because the Supreme Court overturned our previous efforts. But the very comrades who branded the dissolution of the House as regressive and touted its reinstatement as a panacea walked out of the session on the day the Parliament reconvened.
The same people should be showing us the way out of this crisis. However, since the reinstatement of the House, nobody has shown any interest in participating in the legislative process -- rather, everyone’s attention has been focused solely in getting into government. The events of the past month have made it clear that the Prime Minister was right in seeking a fresh mandate.