Is Broader Left Alliance In Offing?

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With the communist parties at the helm of government, the talks of broader left alliance are making the rounds. Apparently, positive environment is being created in favour of a possible left block involving big and small parties. CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre leaders have termed their partnership as co-work instead of alliance, indicating that it is more than a numerical game for the formation of new government. It is obvious that UML chair KP Sharma Oli has surprisingly mended his ways and approached his sworn foe Madhav Kumar Nepal, chairman of CPN-Unified Socialist, for bolstering the new dispensation. 

The day when the four parties – UML, Maoist Centre, Rastriya Swotantra Party and Janata Samajbadi Party – created their alliance, Maoist chair and Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda and Oli rushed to Nepal’s residence to cajole him into new alliance. Nepal was shocked and agitated when Prachanda, in a dramatic move, broke NC-led eight-party alliance and made a pact with the UML. Nepal was next in line to be the prime minister after Prachanda as per their gentleman agreement. In their two-hour long parleys, Prachanda and Oli convinced Nepal in joining the left-dominated coalition. And accompanying leaders said that Nepal and Oli had teary eyes during the conversation.

Factional feud

Will Nepal and Oli again join hands and unify their parties? At the moment, this appears impossible but as the politics is an art of possibility, this prospect can’t be entirely ruled out in the future.  Some days back, Nepal told a programme that he forgot his enmity with Oli for the greater cause of the nation. “We had 50-year-long friendship and decided to bury the hatchet,” said Nepal. Oli and Nepal parted away after the former dissolved the House of Representatives (HoR) twice in the wake of intense factional feud in the then Nepal Communist Party (NCP). Nepal broke the party and formed the Unified Socialist. He supported Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba to get elected to the post of prime minister. 

As a rebel leader, Nepal was hailed for safeguarding constitution and parliament. His bold step saved the parliament from dissolution, allowing it to complete its full term. But he was vilified in the UML camp that accused him of betraying the parent party and supporting the rightist forces. As Nepal’s revolt deprived Oli of the premiership, the hostility between them reached a peak in the last three years. However, the division of NCP into at least four groups weakened Nepali communist movement. In the last federal elections, the UML lost around 30 parliamentary seats due to the party split. The Unified Socialist could not become a national party from the polls despite its nationwide organisation. On the other hand, the NC emerged as the largest party much to the chagrin of the UML.

The dissolution of the House in which the communist parties commanded near two-thirds majority disappointed the general populace regarding their credibility and competency to govern the nation. As a result, new political parties made a sensational rise in the national politics. Both the Maoist Centre and UML saw their support base shrunk in the polls. The huge loss was a rude awakening especially for the UML because it was divested of leading the new government after the polls.

For the long time, Oli refused to recognise the Unified Socialist that has been demanding that he must admit that House disbanding was a mistake and an anti-constitutional move. Though Oli has not publicly apologised for it, his party recognised the Unified Socialist during the election of president last year, seeking the latter's support to the UML's candidate. This broke an ice between the two parties that were engaged in mudslinging against each other. 

As the Unified Socialist can play a crucial role in strengthening the current coalition and forming governments in some provinces, Oli and Prachanda made every effort to bring Nepal on board, raising the prospect of a broader left front in the future. Nepal too has raised the stakes, demanding that he should be given a chance to lead the government, and sources claim Oli and Prachanda are positive about his request. In order to let the new alliance run smoothly, the UML has been satisfied with low profile ministries. Given the declining number of party members, forming an alliance is a viable option for the left parties to better survive and become relevant in Nepali politics.  

Political muscle   

After the NC decided not to forge pre-poll alliance with the communist parties, the Maoist Centre decided to go for the broader left polarisation to regain a foothold in view of challenges posed by new forces.  Meanwhile, the four-party Socialist Front has decided to bring the UML into the fold. For this, Nepal and Prachanda have been assigned to hold talks with Oli. Its current coordinator, Netra Bikram Chanda Biplav, has claimed that Oli is positive about working with the Socialist Front. Biplav is working unflaggingly to bring other left parties into the Front. Earlier, the Front was seen as Prachanda's gambit to flex his political muscle and increase bargaining power within the previous NC-led alliance.

The Socialist Front can be a practical platform for the left groups to collaborate for realising the new constitution that has envisaged a socialism-oriented economy and welfare state. For this, they must shed their personal egos and mutual animosity. They have a tendency of blowing small yet trivial differences out of proportion, undermining their noble goals of attaining economic equality and just society. As the NC has been advocating the neo-liberal agenda for decades, the onus is on the left parties to create a socialist economy so that the people have easy access to health, education and social security. This requires forming a powerful alliance capable of implementing the progressive agendas and programmes without any hindrances.

(The author is Deputy Executive Editor of this daily.)  


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