Micromanagement of our affairs by neighbours will invite US influence: Koirala
Dr Shekhar Koirala is an outspoken leader of the Nepali Congress. A central committee member of the NC and a lawmaker, Koirala, who had played a key role in bringing the then Maoists to the political mainstream in 2005, was a witness to the 12-point agreement inked between the Maoists and the Seven-party Alliance that year. Since the 12-point agreement, Koirala had been a part of the peace process. He is also known to have the capability to analyse the country’s political situation in depth. He recently spoke to Ram Prasad Dahal ofTh e Rising Nepal about the left alliance and its effect on Nepal’s future political course, among other issues. Excerpts:
The alliance between the CPN-UML and the Maoist-Centre has caused a ripple in Nepali politics. Immediately after the two big communist parties and Naya Shakti Party Nepal announced an electoral alliance for the forthcoming elections, the Nepali Congress too has been busy in forming a democratic alliance. In a sense, there is a sort of competition among the political parties to forge left and right alliances. So where is our politics heading to?
Nepal is passing through a transition phase. The peace process is yet to be concluded. The Peace and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission on the Disappeared People are still there. At such a time, I cannot take the announcement to create a single communist party otherwise. I say what they have done was right because unification between the communist parties was inevitable. But I think it was not the right time to forge a communist alliance and announce the unification of the UML and the Maoist-Centre in the future.
You said it was wrong to forge a left alliance. Did the NC fail to sense such an alliance in time?
I do not say that they (the CPN-UML and Maoist-Centre) have done wrong. The NC had forged an alliance with the Maoist-Centre during the formation of the NC-Maoist government in 2016 by inking a three-point agreement, and we were abiding by the agreement. We supported Renu Dahal (Prachanda’s daughter) though we did not want to please Prachanda. The NC ensured Renu’s victory by damaging its own image. If you look at that, this has deteriorated our position.
What I want to know is if this situation was created by the wrong policy of the NC.
The alliance between the communist parties is okay. I do not say it is a bad thing. But it happened a bit early. They had been thinking of creating a single communist party. That is not a bad thing. But if they want to impose communism, it will be only a daydream. Due to the international community, no country can become a communist state these days. Those countries that became a communist state in the past are the only ones remaining, no new country has become a communist state.
Will our communist leaders lean on China towards that end?
China has been a communist party since long. But if we look at its activities, the economic progress it has made over the decades, China looks more like a capitalist country than a communist one. Only their regime is communist in nature. They have a one-party system, but China has adopted capitalism.
What worries us is the geopolitics. Earlier, they used to say that India has been resorting to micromanaging Nepal’s affairs. Now the left thinkers have started telling that China too is doing the same thing in Nepal. Nepal with its poor economy is a fragile country, moving towards becoming a failed state. So if our neighbours engage in micro-managing our affairs, it is dangerous for us.
You suspect a foreign hand behind the left alliance in Nepal?
No, I have not said so, the left scholars have written about this.
How trustworthy are their views?
I do not claim such views hold much truth. The alliance has only been forged. We will gradually know the truth. But many people think, China being a close neighbour, it is natural for them to be happy when the left parties are together.
You said in the beginning that we are still in transition, and the peace process has yet to reach a logical conclusion. Will the left alliance affect it?
Prachandaji will be affected the most by this. The country will also be affected. Europeans and the Americans are very sensitive to the issue of human rights. I had told Prachanda this about a month and a half back when we met. He had asked me what he should do as the UML had offered his party 40 per cent of the seats in the elections. I had clearly told him that he should be with the Nepali Congress if he wanted to maintain his presence, but if he wanted his identity wiped out, he could join the UML. My main concern is that the peace process is still incomplete.
You are one of the leaders who have been closely involved in the peace process since the inking of the 12-point agreement. How have you known Prachanda over the years? Cannot he be prevented from forging and breaking alliances frequently?
It is his nature. Who can correct an aged man like him? He is already 62 years old. He cannot give up his habit.
Who do you think will benefit from this left alliance?
The Maoists will benefit from it. Will the CPN-UML take any advantage from this? Obviously not. But Baburamji will benefit. With Baburamji becoming a part of this alliance, some people think the alliance could be the brainchild of India. Intellectuals view this alliance from this perspective. But I do not think so. Recently, Dr Baburam Bhattarai paid a visit to China, and after returning to Nepal he was highly critical of India and equally so of the Nepali Congress.
You took the names of India and China. But what has been the role of the European Union and the US to this?
If India and China are into ‘micromanaging’ Nepal’s affairs, then U.S. influence will naturally grow here. World history is testimony to this.
In the changed political situation, what do you think should be the role of the Nepali Congress?
There is a very interesting thing associated with the NC. In the local level elections held in all the seven provinces, the NC was behind the CPN-UML by 25 to 30 seats. But the NC got about 20 per cent more votes than the UML, this is highly encouraging for us. Secondly, if the top level NC leaders send a message of unity among them to the people, the NC will fare better in the future elections. There is no need to worry.
How feasible is that?
After having faced such deceit, if they still fail to maintain unity, it will be a catastrophe.
As an NC leader, do you see such a possibility?
Well, I see the possibility and I also don’t see it.
Now the Nepali Congress is working to create a democratic alliance. Why?
Theirs is a total leftist alliance, but we are not total rightist, we are a centrist party. But there is now a need for standing as a rightist or centrist party together to counter them. This has to be done.
Will formation of a new alliance against another lead the country in the right direction?
Our central election system is such that no party can move ahead singly without forging an alliance with another party. During their press conference, I heard the UML and Maoist leaders saying that their alliance would win a two-thirds majority in the election. I also wish that. But that is not possible.
Then tell how many seats will the ‘democratic’ alliance win?
Two or three factors will work in this context. If the people get the message of unity within the NC, and if there is no division while granting election tickets to the leaders, and if other constituents of the democratic alliance like the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal, Federal Socialist Alliance, Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Rastriya Prajatantra Party (democratic) and the party of Bijay Gachchhadar stand united, that will be fruitful. We have to give them certain things because we need to strengthen the democratic forces at the moment. This will also do good to the nation in the long run.
Let’s change the context. When the ruling Maoist Centre has forged an electoral alliance with the main opposition, the CPN-UML, views have been expressed that the Maoists should quit the government. What is your view in this regard?
This is not purely logic. If I had been in Prachandaji’s place, I would have quit the government on moral ground at the very press conference. It is an issue of ethics. In Nepal, the Prime Minister enjoys executive power. He can remove the Maoist ministers. It is the Prime Minister’s prerogative whether to sack the Maoist ministers. But if they have any ethics, they should quit. If they have no ethics, they are free to do anything. In Nepal’s politics, there is no ethics. So Prachandaji should withdraw all the ministers representing his party today.
If Prachanda does not do that, what will the PM do?
I cannot say anything to this.
Has not there been any discussion in the party about this issue?
Discussions are taking place in the party. There is no need to tell everything here.
Will not the latest political upheaval affect the forthcoming elections to the House of Representatives and provincial assemblies?
The Maoist-Centre has been saying that the elections will be affected if their ministers are removed. But the elections will not be affected. They will be held on November 26 and December 7 as scheduled.
Will you tell our readers about the post-election political scenario?
Many factors will determine the situation. What type of contradictions will arise during the elections within the two alliances, how deep will be such contradictions within the democratic alliance and the alliance between the UML and the Maoist-Centre? Contradictions are sure to occur. In many places, winning candidates of one party will have to vacate seats for the candidates of another party. These factors will determine the post-election scenario. Even in a disciplined party like the Maoist-Centre, contradictions have started surfacing. Even within the UML, voices that the party should not have forged an alliance with the Maoist-Centre might have been suppressed. But as a mass-based party, the Nepali Congress leaders and cadres disclose everything to the public.
Can we say the political transition will be over after the polls?
I doubt, because the peace process is yet to be concluded.