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Nepal SC annuls unification of NCP factions, Kattel emerges as new leader

Mutual losers? Both Prachanda and KP Sharma Oli have lost hold of the NCP to Kattel (IANS)

In a surprise and unexpected decision, Nepal's Supreme Court on Sunday annulled the unification of the ruling Nepal Communist Party's factions and paved the way for them to be divided into two separate parties.

Passing a verdict on legitimacy of Nepal Communist Party challenged by veteran Communist leader Rishiram Kattel in 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the original Nepal Communist Party or NCP is headed by Kattel and not Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli or the faction led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal or 'Prachanda'. The Supreme Court decided to award the Nepal Communist Party leadership to Kattel.

The Supreme Court's decision has pushed Nepal's ruling party into a state of confusion and disarray.

Quashing the Election Commission's decision to award the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) leadership to Oli and Dahal, the top court has said the then CPN-UML and then CPN (Maoist Centre) would return to the pre-merger stage and if they were to merge, they should apply to the Election Commission as per the Political Parties Act. Oli's CPN-UML and Dahal's CPN (Maoist Centre) had announced their merger in May 2018.

"The Supreme Court's ruling came beyond our expectations," Prachanda said adding that "we cannot comment on it without going through the detailed text of the verdict." The Prachanda-led faction also held an emergency meeting after the verdict.

But the Oli faction is happy with the verdict. Oli's CPN-UML was the largest party in 2017 election. Later it merged with Prachanda-led CPN (Maoist Centre) and formed the Nepal Communist Party in 2018 and became the largest party in the Parliament with almost two-third seats.

"We respect the verdict, we believe in the independence of the judiciary," party secretary general and Finance Minister, Bishnu Poudel said.

Both Oli and Prachanda factions are functioning as two parties though they have not technically split after Prime Minister Oli dissolved the House on December 20 and declared snap polls. Oli's decision has created a furor and opposition inside the ruling party.

The Prachanda-led faction has already claimed legitimacy with the Elections Commission saying it has a majority of the central committee members. But the Election Commission could not take a decision on the party split because Oli is also claiming the same.

Kattel had challenged the Election Commission's decision to register Nepal Communist Party (NCP) under Oli and Dahal in May 2018.

The bench has said that the new party cannot be registered with the Election Commission when it already has a party registered with a similar name.

The decision came just hours before the scheduled meeting of the House of Representatives where the two factions of the Nepal Communist Party are battling to show their majority.