The Socialist Front, Nepal is again in the limelight as it is engaged in expanding its structure at provincial and local levels. The zeal and enthusiasm that the Front leaders and supporters had shown during its formation on June 19 this year is now conspicuously missing owing to new development and dynamics of Nepali politics. It should have developed a clear roadmap to bring about socio-economic transformation as claimed by its leaders. Instead of nurturing internal unity, mutual trust and organisational base, some of its constituents have borne a litany of grudges that might undermine its vision, mission and goals.
The Front comprises four parties – CPN-Maoist Centre, CPN-Unified Socialist, Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) and CPN-led by Netra Bikram Chand. It has sought to coalesce the progressive forces committed to democratic republic, federalism, secularism and inclusion while pledging to devise socialism of Nepali model and give a logical conclusion to the remaining task of peace process. While announcing creation of the Front, CPN-Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda said that the democratic, leftist and socialist parties could join the Front but regressive or rightist parties could not be a part of it.
There are many communist parties that might be attracted to the Front’s socialist agenda but no party has joined the Front till now. Why didn’t the fringe left groups show inclination to go with the Front? Were the Front leaders obsessed only with the power politics and least concerned about giving momentum to the socialist movement by bringing other like-minded forces on board? With the formation of the Front, various speculations were made to berate its credibility and objectives. Some detractors argued that it would provide greater leverage to the incumbent PM Prachanda to bolster his clout in the five-party ruling alliance. The Front holds 54 seats in the House of Representatives (HoR). This numerical strength makes the Front a force to reckon with in the hung parliament.
Similarly, the Front can serve as a reliable platform for Unified Socialist chair Madhav Kumar Nepal to vindicate its split from the parent CPN-UML over the dissolution of parliament. The Unified Socialist failed to be a national party in the elections held last year and the Front can help it proliferate ideology and organisation. JSP leader Upendra Yadav can use it as a springboard to promote his regional politics in the southern belt. On the other hand, the Front can be a transitional podium for Biplav to shed his violent campaign and join the Maoist Centre.
The Front’s partners are now grappling with the points of divergence rather than convergence. Biplav has launched an agitation against the implementation of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), citing that the US-funded project does not benefit Nepal. Similarly, anti-MCC sentiments are also running high within the Unified Socialist. However, PM Prachanda has already said that the MCC had come into force and he was not in a position to halt its implementation. Although the Maoist Centre’s rank and file opposes the MCC, Prachanda was impelled to endorse the MCC in the parliament owing to certain geopolitical reasons.
JSP chairman Upendra Yadav was unhappy with Prachanda after the Home Ministry and the Gaur Murder Victims Struggle Committee signed a five-point deal to investigate into the Gaur massacre in which 27 Maoist cadres were killed in Rautahat in 2007. The victims staged a series of protests in Rautahat district for six days, demanding that the culprits be brought to book. The tragic incident happened following a nasty confrontation between the Maoists and JSP workers over a venue for a mass meeting. Yadav even threatened to pull out of the government if the investigation process is initiated. A meeting of the ruling parties decided to postpone the probe, citing that the deceased had already been compensated and declared as martyrs.
Unified Socialist chair Madhav Kumar Nepal faced a moral dilemma after the Supreme Court ordered to investigate all, including former prime ministers, involved in the decision-making process of illegal transfer of the Lalita Niwas land into private individuals. The Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police has recorded statements of Nepal and another former PM Dr. Baburam Bhattarai in connection with the notorious land grab scam. Nepal showed displeasure after he was dragged into the investigation ring given that the Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority had already given him a clean chit. Meanwhile, PM Prachanda has defended Nepal, claiming that the CIB has proved the latter innocent by registering a written statement in which it has stated that there is no need to prosecute him.
The personal troubles of Front leaders have apparently precluded it from gaining grounds. The Front has set lofty goals of eradication of class and caste inequality, capitalist exploitation and interference, implementation of progressive tax, increase in employment opportunity, agriculture revolution and transformation in the health and education sector. However, it has not yet formulated long-term theoretical and structural framework to attain these goals. It seems the Front is concentrated more in accumulating power to meet immediate interest rather than espousing the long-term strategy for building a socialist state.
The Front might not come out of the teething glitches if it is driven by parochial goals. The Front leaders are now in the driving seat of the government, which gives it an opportunity to prove its mettle and win people’s faith. The government’s anti-corruption drive has received huge public support but this is not enough to advance the socialist agenda of democratic nation-building. It needs to take bold steps to fight the offshoots of neoliberalism that has weakened the Nepali state and increased economic dependency. It must push for industrialisation process to check financialisation of economy that has only bred comprador class and rent-seeking culture. If the Front is confined itself in displaying only numerical muscle in the House, it is unlikely to create impact and justify its relevance in national politics.
(The author is Deputy Executive Editor of this daily.)