Nepali politics has been in a state of flux for many decades despite having all democratic attributes achieved through a series of struggles, movements and revolutions. Ideological elements have often inspired the political parties to spearhead those upheavals but ideology that contains certain amount of ethical virtues hardly guide them for desired level of structural transformation. Instead the boundaries of their professed principles are often blurred to satisfy their penchant for power. Domestic politics has been messy and unstable because key players do not hesitate to contort their ideological compass. And their theoretical base is further eroded by the geopolitical players active to increase their sphere of influence here.
At every political juncture, the country witnesses the emergence of new forces that ride a wave of anti-establishment sentiments. Democratic and communist parties form the major currents of Nepali politics since the early days of democratic agitations. But, unlike the nature of communists of some other nations where they are portrayed as authoritarian force, Nepali communists have been an integral part of democratic movement, transforming themselves as social democratic parties. This is a reason why they have developed strong electoral base over the years.
Today left-right divide has been erased to an extent that the communists have opted for forging comradeship and partnership with non-communist parties. Despite popular craze and mandate, the communists have weakened owing to their own nasty factional feuds and splits and ideological deviations, depriving them of fulfilling their electoral promises. If combined, Nepali communists still form a formidable force. But they become the victims of their own personal ego, arrogance, personality clash, hidden interests and differences in tactical line, among others.
For the students of political science, Nepali communist movement presents an interesting study. It starts from armed struggle and then the frontline leaders gradually accommodate and adopt moderate course based on utilitarian politics. Their adaptation to the ground reality, however, takes them away from their original goals and aspirations. One persistent irony is that founding leaders are estranged from the parties or splinter factions, which emerge bigger than the parental ones. As the leadership fails to embrace the changing contexts and conditions, their parties suffer revolts and break-ups frequently. But at the same time, newly-formed groups may not grasp what the vision that their founding leaders embraced during the establishment of the parties.
The motto ‘strength lies in unity’ has become merely a smokescreen to hide the personal vice of leaders. It is sometimes deconstructed by another fallacious line – ‘strength comes from division.’ In fact, division has caused colossal losses to the Nepali communist movement. When there is an alliance or unity between the communist forces, they emerge as a big popular power in terms of numerical strength and impact. But such unity appears to be artificial and expedient. Unity that is forged to meet vested personal interest, rather than the broader welfare of people, falls apart much to the chagrin of their functionaries and well-wishers. Failure to manage the intra-party conflict has led to their eventual disintegration as well as collapse of the government they lead.
The country saw three-tier elections twice after the promulgation of new constitution in 2015. In 2017, the communist forces pulled a resounding victory owing to the synergic effect of the alliance of two bigger left parties – CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre. Later they also got united to create the country’s largest party - Nepal Communist Party - with a huge mandate. But the Reds’ euphoria proved to be short-lived. Its division, triggered by the dissolution of the federal parliament, shattered the hopes the electorates, who voted them to power. This also gave room to detractors to question the competency of communists to govern the nation despite their high-sounding ideals and catchy slogans.
Just some days back, the UML chair KP Sharma Oli had proposed its breakaway CPN-Unified Socialist’s chair Madhav Kumar Nepal for the presidential candidacy. This generated ripples in the left circle as many thought it would be a stepping-stone to pursue unity among the fragmented communists. Leader Nepal took the proposal positively but he put forth a condition – he would be ready to be presidential candidate with the UML’s backing if the latter was ready to revive the dissolved NCP. Nonetheless, Oli was not interested in meeting Nepal’s demand. As a result, Oli’s proposal turned into a nine days’ wonder.
Oli also wrote a letter to Nepal’s party, urging it to vote for UML’s presidential candidate Subash Nembang. This was the first time the UML recognised the Unified Socialist as a political force. This is likely to increase rapprochement between the two parties in the future although the Unified Socialist will not support UML’s candidate given that it is a part of 8-party alliance that jointly fielded NC’s Ram Chandra Paudel as the candidate for the top post. Oli wants to make his party the largest one in the parliament by bringing the Unified Socialist into its fold. But such an approach, guided by short-term goals, can hardly help take the splinter into confidence and materialise the unity of two parties.
Like Buddha, Karl Marx, the founding father of communism, has stressed need-based economy in place of greed-based economy promoted by modern capitalism. Marx devoted all his life for the emancipation of the entire human race, not just the proletariat class, a product of 19th century’s capitalism. But, Marxist leaders and parties that call for changing the world failed to change themselves to suit their ideological norms, ethics and character. The yawning gap between principle and practice can hardly enable them to bring about radical change in the society. So it is no wonder Nepali communist movement has been reeling from hypocritical posture of leadership, ideological deviation and inherent inconsistencies. Now time has come for them to follow the down-to-earth approach, and stop churning out hypothetical rhetoric to excite the masses.
(The author is Deputy Executive Editor of this daily.)