Enter Prachanda As PM The Stakes Are High
The Maoist leader, Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, is set to be sworn in as the prime minister of Nepal after the UML chief, KP Sharma Oli, lost the trust of the national parliament a few days ago. It is for the second time that Prachanda has gotten the opportunity to become the head of the government in the democratic republic of Nepal. The first time he rode to power was almost eight years ago after the Maoist party managed to become the largest party in the national legislature that was also mandated to execute the role of the Constituent Assembly.
Needless to say, the election to the Constituent Assembly was the point of convergence for the Maoists to abandon their armed insurgency and participate in the mainstream peaceful politics of Nepal.
The Constituent Assembly has been, perhaps, the most acceptable and democratic methodology to conceptualise and write the constitution for a nation. And Nepal had chosen this path, especially to pursue the twin objectives of ending the armed conflict by mainstreaming the Maoists into peaceful democratic politics and redeeming the historic promise to deliver the constitution conceived and drafted by the participation of representatives elected by the people way back in 1950.
It was a historic moment for Nepal as it had not only drawn the attention of the international community but had also been appreciated with new enthusiasm and optimism. Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda as the head of the government had landed him a historic and epoch-making opportunity to set the direction for the democratisation, prosperity and development of the country.
He was expected to work in accordance with the spirit of dedication and devotion to transform the Nepali society from a state of poverty and illiteracy into an era of progress and hope. Moreover, what was expected of Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda was the well articulated goal of a prosperous and democratic Nepal coupled with systematic and attainable measures to achieve that goal.
A leader can guide the nation only when he or she is a person of integrity and probity, having the determination to rise above parochial and partisan interests. It was, indeed, natural to set larger parameters of expectations for Prachanda especially because he was the leader who had plotted the strategy of an armed conflict against the state and motivated and organised thousands of youths for the same.
There is no gainsaying that around 17,000 Nepalese people were killed in the armed conflict initiated under his leadership. A historic responsibility was, therefore, placed on his shoulders to redeem the pledge he had made to the nation. However, he was not able to perform up to the mark. He was neither able to take the peace process forward to a firm conclusion nor give the needed momentum to the process of constitution writing.
Moreover, he was alleged to be dabbling in petty issues at the neglect of the larger issues and problems facing the country. Finally, he quit the post of prime minister after nine months of rule with discontent and frustration. Now, after nine years, the context and circumstances have changed.
The country has received a new constitution, and the hope and optimism with which Prachanda was looked at and respected when he had become prime minister for the first time no longer exists. In fact, Prachanda’s stature presumably as a revolutionary and transformative leader has been considerably diminished. Moreover, his party was reduced to third position in the national parliament in the last election held in 2013, in which the Nepali Congress fared first and the CPN (UML) second in terms of number of seats.
The Maoist party’s popularity has dipped even further. And the splits and fragmentations have rendered it very weak. It is indeed a moment for Prachanda to rejuvenate his lost image and stature as a leader and infuse new hope in the party organisation that is mired in disarray. But this is easier said than done.
He is accused of being a pawn in the hand of the forces bent on sabotaging the Oli-led coalition government. Though outgoing Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli is said to have refused to respect the gentlemen’s agreement to anoint Prachanda as the prime minister, prompting him to ally with the NC to dislodge Oli, this line of argument has few takers. As he and his party have been privy to the decisions that were made by the Oli-led government, it is politically and morally ill-suited to accuse the outgoing government for any fallouts whatsoever.
In fact, the call of the day is to go for forming a national consensus government, in which the major political parties are accommodated. But no parties have bothered to make a serious attempt to set up a national consensus government. Prachanda’s move could have been justified in toppling the majoritarian government led by Oli only if he was able to cobble together the support of all the political forces, including the CPN (UML), to form the government led by him. However, he did not seem to have made the needed efforts to persuade the major political actors to agree to be part of the government to be led by him. With the CPN (UML) sidelined from the decision-making process on key national strategic issues, the new government led by Prachanda will be hamstrung to resolve issues that need the support of the major political stakeholders in the country.
However, Prachanda has witnessed many ups and downs in the national politics and experienced many twists and turns in his long spanning career as a leader. He should be aware that not demagogic antics but effective performance to deliver promises matter in the new context of Nepal. He is expected to work to that end.