Sunday, 1 August, 2021

Fighting Leaders, Fragile Unity

Mukti Rijal


The ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) is embroiled in the crisis of unity. Two leaders, who had pioneered unity of the two major communist parties - Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda -, have now stood against each other. Needless to repeat, the erstwhile CPN (UML) and CPN (Maoist Centre) had dissolved themselves to create the NCP almost four years ago. The happenstance was described then as an important epoch in the political history of Nepal. It was also welcomed as a positive development that had sent the tantalising waves in the political spectrum of the country.

Electoral alliance
Following their merger, the two parties had not only agreed to set up electoral alliance for the federal and state level polls but also cede themselves into a single leftist party. At that time, they had formulated a six-point accord signifying that they would not only enter an electoral alliance through seat sharing and mutual adjustment but also work out the process for unification of the rank and file into a single embedded organisation. In line with the terms of their agreement, the erstwhile UML was allotted to compete in sixty per cent of the seats for federal and state parliament while the former Maoist Centre had contested in the forty per cent.
As expected and widely speculated, the communist conglomerate was able to garner nearly two-thirds majority in the elections. As a result, they formed government at the centre and in six states. The merger of the two communist parties had in a way reversed and rectified the trend of the splits and factions plaguing the communist parties in Nepal. The communist parties have been ever predisposed to split and create factions along what they call ideological issues and polemics.
This was the case not only in Nepal but also the phenomenon in the world communist movement as well. The so called ideological issues did drive a wedge and created conflicts worldwide among the communist parties in their history. However, political analysts deduce that despite the ideological veneer and pretensions, each communist split was rather engineered due to personal ego, ambition, interest and jealousy, not substantiated in any way by the ideological rhyme and reason. And the countries that had subscribed fully or partially to the elements of communism have abandoned their allegiance to it one and after the other.
However, Nepal has appeared to be a unique case in the sense that the communist parties have developed their strength and confidence to present themselves as the influential player and politically decisive electoral force in the country. The Maoists had challenged the state from late nineties to early twenties through the bogey of people’s war and attempted to smash it through ten year long armed conflict. But the erstwhile UML maintained its competitive vigour and political strength through participation in the peaceful democratic elections.
Needless to say, the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in 2006 had ended the Maoist armed insurgency. It had paved the way for mainstreaming of the Maoists into the peaceful democratic process. Consequently, Nepal had witnessed the emergence of the two stronger communist parties competing for their role and share as the governing parties through adherence of democratic process. In the two elections held for the Constituent Assembly (CA) in 2008 and 2013 respectively both the communist parties had been pitted into democratic competition against each other apart from Nepali Congress (NC) - the liberal democratic party with a long history and contribution of its own. These communist parties had demonstrated their clout and strength. Gradually, however, the erstwhile Maoists came crashing down, losing out their support base to the rivals as indicated in the second CA polls held in 2013.
Later, after their drubbing in the second CA polls, the Maoists were forced to search for their existential rationale and relevance. First, they allied with the UML, but due to some irritants in their working relationship, they forged alliance with the NC too as part of the power sharing arrangement. Its hobnobbing with the NC ended after they chose UML as natural ally. In fact, the Maoists under the leadership of Prachanda showed unstable political behaviour and switched over to this or that side to forge alliances as a kind of marriage of convenience. Finally, the Maoists decided to merge with UML almost four years ago to form a single party

Personal ego
The ongoing infighting among political leaders in the ruling party indicates that leftist leaders are yet to shun their tendencies to indulge in petty quarrels for personal egos and ambitions. It has frustrated the party rank and file and reduced politics into an allegedly abhorrent game. The move to form a single political party through merger into UML had been a welcome development. But its successful execution through management of personal egos and ambitions has become very difficult and daunting. It is yet to be seen whether the egoist and self-centered leaders will work in cohesion to handle the affairs of the government effectively and keep the party unity intact. It is incumbent upon them to ensure that they rise above personal interests and work together for larger interests of the nation as they had pledged to the people during the last elections.

(Rijal, PhD, contributes regularly to TRN and writes on contemporary political, economic and governance issues.