With the idea of Left Alliance not sailing smoothly, the communist allies in the ruling alliance have been engaged in creating ‘Socialist Centre’ to boost their electoral prospect in the upcoming provincial and federal polls. Top communist brass associated with the erstwhile NCP have taken forward the notion of Socialist Centre as a strategic move to secure dignified share of seats in the alliance after Nepali Congress, in its recent central committee meeting, decided to win majority seats in the upcoming two-layer polls by giving continuity with five-party alliance.
Satisfied with the success in the local polls that made it the largest party, the NC has decided to contest the polls through the alliance so that it will bag the majority seats in the parliament and lead the government for the next five years. The NC has stressed on forming a minimum common view on the implementation of the constitution, socio-economic transformation and foreign relations while forging alliance with the coalition partners. It has sought framing a clear roadmap to bring qualitative change to the life of people by means of a stable government.
To stick to the alliance till the elections has become necessary for all allies as main opposition CPN-UML has come out as the first party in popular votes in the local polls and still poses a formidable challenge to the alliance of left and democratic parties. For the NC, it is essential to keep the alliance intact to avoid the possible alliance/unity of left parties, whose combined votes stand at around two-thirds of total votes cast in any election in the country. The NC’s political fortune is largely secured from the splits of Nepali communist groups that often indulge in ideological polemics and ego-driven factional feuds. This is a reason why most of its central committee members have underlined the need for electoral alliance to bolster the party.
The NC aimed at forging alliance in a way that helps it secure majority in the election, enabling it to lead the new government for the next five years. As per the media reports, NC is ready to allot only 65 seats to its allies and keep 100 seats with it in the upcoming federal polls. CPN-Maoist Centre, CPN-Unified Socialist and Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) have taken umbrage at the NC’s decision, thinking that their strength has been underestimated ahead of crucial polls. “We have been startled by the NC decision that has denigrated our role in the alliance,” admitted Unified Socialist Centre chair Madhav Kumar Nepal.
Thus, the NC’s strategy to lead the new government without the backing of current allies has ruffled their feathers, prompting them to rush for building the Socialist Centre that could cobble together communist groups of diverse shades. The UML’s imperious attitude also impelled the Maoist Centre and Unified Socialist to go for the Socialist Centre. Sometime back, its chair KP Sharma Oli said that there were no left parties except UML in the country. Oli’s haughty remark came in a response to Maoist Centre leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha’s request to fight the coming polls under the banner of Left Alliance. Stung by two big parties, the designers of Socialist Centre want to develop it as an alternative to NC and UML.
Behind the attempts to create the Socialist Centre, there is also the motive to accommodate two ‘disconnected’ leaders – Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and Bam Dev Gautam. After facing action in his own party, JSP, Dr. Bhattarai is now in the biggest dilemma of his political career. He is set to quit the JSP but does not want to join any communist party as he had publicly announced his ideological allegiance to communist philosophy.
But he has a challenge not to leave his supporters in the lurch. His cadres have pressed him to set up a new party but it is not easy for him to open and run a new party as he had already failed in that venture. He is trying to coax his supporters to join the Socialist Centre but some of them want to remain at the JSP while some others will try their luck with their parent party- Maoist Centre - that is ready to welcome its prodigal sons to boost the electoral gains.
The creation of Socialist Centre may save blushes of Gautam who is now on the political margins after his slogan of left unity came unstuck. Therefore, the Centre has a potential to bring the heavyweights of contemporary communist movement - Prachanda, Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal, Dr. Bhattarai, Gautam and Narayan Kaji Shrestha together, giving a glimpse of the creation of the then CPN that was dissolved by a verdict of the Supreme Court. A coordination committee has been assigned to bring a common manifesto, poll symbol and political agenda of the Centre.
The word 'socialism' holds charm among the people in the country. Even the constitution has envisioned building a socialist-oriented economy. The snappy term is likely to appeal to the voters in the polls. No doubt, there is political compulsion for the parties in the government and outside to build the Centre for better political outcome for them. Several media outlets insist that Prachanda has vigorously pushed the idea of forming the Socialist Centre in a bid to fulfil his desire to be the next prime minister. Forging alliance or unity among the political parties is natural in a multiparty democracy. But this must be based on coherent principle, ideology and agenda. The alliance created to meet the parochial short-term goals won't last long.
(The author is Deputy Executive Editor of this daily.)