With their parliamentary position weakened and threats from major political parties, four left parties have come up with a socialist front, which has elicited scathing criticism from the leader of the main communist party. The CPN-Maoist Centre, CPN-Unified Socialist, Janata Samajbadi Party, and CPN, led by Netra Bikram Chand Biplav, have formed the socialist front, with the primary goal of achieving a comprehensive transformation in the country through the establishment of scientific socialism. For this, they will design their own kind of socialism in order to reform the country on all political, economic, and social levels while protecting all political achievements made after the people’s uprising in 2006.
While many front leaders may consider the new entity an attempt to stitch together the fragmented communist movement, CPN-UML chair KP Sharma Oli has slammed these leaders for fabricating a socialist front that is unnecessary. "Why is this front required as they are already in a live-in partnership?" Oli taunted. "The front is formed merely to oppose the UML and to pose challenges to the Nepali Congress."
With 54 legislators in the lower chamber of parliament, the newly formed Socialist Front appears to wield substantial clout in the nation’s politics. Parties like the Nepali Congress or the UML must get the front’s backing if any of them wishes to form a new government in case the current ruling coalition breaks down. The formation of a new front offers the three parties — the Maoist Centre, Unified Socialist, and JSP — a significant presence inside the present coalition vis-à-vis the Nepali Congress, which has 89 legislators. According to some analysts, the current political landscape is fraught with obstacles for the leaders who have proposed the new front.
Despite their membership in the present government, these figures are concerned about the consequences of an unforeseen change of events. They are worried that the two largest parties in parliament, the Nepali Congress and the UML, as well as the Rastriya Swatantra Party, will cause them problems. They may have feared that the NC and the UML would join hands to form a new government. If that happens, the Nepali Congress (88 legislators), UML (78), and RSP (21) would have a two-thirds majority in parliament, driving the front's parties to the sidelines.
Given the nature of the UML chair, he may engage in any strategy to destabilise the Prachanda-led administration, even by joining forces with the Nepali Congress. Prime Minister Prachanda and his communist partners might take solace in the fact that the Congress would not dump them at any cost as it despises allying with the UML, much to Prachanda's joy. Apart from keeping them in good stead against the vagaries of current politics, another goal of the formation of the Socialist Front is to bring all left parties under one umbrella to achieve the exalted outcome of a bigger communist movement, which has so far remained fragmented thanks to the differences among communist leaders. Trust deficits among communist leaders have often turned them into chief adversaries every now and then.
It is said that these leaders often remain close allies when they are passing through hard times or when they are out of power. Once they taste success or come back to power, they start tussling over power, pelf, perks, and other trappings that power brings to them. Looking back, the collapse of the Nepal Communist Party in 2021, as a result of heated disagreements between Maoist Centre chair Prachanda and UML chief Oli, delivered a crushing blow to the dream of a united communist movement. The collapse not only toppled the Oli-led government but also led to a split in the UML. The breakup of the NCP, which was created with great zeal and went on to win an astounding victory in the 2017 general elections, should serve as a good lesson.
Oli's critique of the newly formed front implies that he has no intention to join the front any time soon, casting doubt on the front's efficacy and capacity to really represent all leftist forces and fulfil its lofty aims. Former prime minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, who chairs the Nepal Samajbadi Party and is one of the proponents of the Socialist Front, decided not to be part of it at the last moment. Another communist leader, Bam Dev Gautam, also pulled out of the front and decided to join his old party, the UML, after the party removed the 70-year-old ceiling. Without doubt, these two leaders’ snub has somewhat diluted the front’s status.
It is also worth noting that a lack of clear demarcation between the parties and the front may result in redundant efforts and a weakened impact. To enable successful coordination and implementation of its objectives, the front must build a robust organisational structure, from the national level down to the grassroots. Having said that, the Socialist Front offers an opportunity for Nepal's derailed communist movement to make a comeback.
However, it is important for its leaders to carefully consider its plan in order to navigate through Nepal's complex social, economic, and political challenges. The front’s leaders must learn from their past mistakes, unite leftist forces, and successfully manage the existing political environment if it wishes to achieve long-term success. With cautious and careful management, the front may be able to fulfill its goal and reinvigorate socialism in the country.
(Upadhyay is a former managing editor of this daily.)