Into The Labyrinth Of Political Probabilities
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
Sometimes leaders plunge into political whirlpools which neither let them gain a foothold nor allow them to negotiate a way out of the sucking tunnel of misjudgment. It happens when decisions are taken on the basis of a shallow analysis of existing variables that determine the course of political events, especially in the context where multiple stakeholders happen to be competing for space in the corridor of power.
Strategy for survival
By deciding to descend from the comfort of a successful coalition with the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) into a cacophonous crowd of power seekers, chairperson of the CPN (MC) Comrade Prachanda appears to have put his political judgment to the ultimate test. The study of his past history shows that he has the knack of creating turmoil to trap his opponents and eventually come out of it dented but securely in command. Whether this strategy for survival which he had practiced successfully in his intra-party rivalry for leadership will work in handling inter-party contradictions will be proved from his ability to negotiate the labyrinth of political probabilities.
Comrade Prachanda has returned to the prime ministerial chair after a hiatus of nine years. He had to step down on May 4, 2009 after his attempt to sack General Rookmangad Katawal from the post of Commander in-Chief of the Nepal Army failed.
Much water has flown under the bridge since. Political circumstances have undergone a sea change. Comrade Prachanda’s party has splintered into five groups, the Maoist People’s Army has melted away, the political equation has been drastically altered by the election of the Second Constituent Assembly, many senior leaders who had played a strategic role in bringing the CPN (Maoist Centre) to this stage have left comrade Prachanda’s camp to try their lot by setting up their own power bastions. On the contrary, the CPN (UML) has regained some of its support bases which it had lost to revolutionary romanticism of the Maoist insurgency and is claiming to be the strongest political force in the country.
Having suffered a series of splits, the CPN (MC) is clearly in an adverse situation, which hardly allows it to do anything that is likely to project it in unpopular light. The coalition with the CPN (UML) could have been its best bait in view of the advantage it could reap from a collaborative partnership. The ministries it was given to lead would have allowed it an opportunity to win over the people’s trust which it had lost over the years. They could be credited for bringing substantial difference in the life of the earthquake-affected people. It could help them create a conducive environment for strengthening the electoral position of their party. But their readiness to be an instrument of bringing down the popular government of KP Oli has brought them under critical public scrutiny. People are now blaming, rightly or wrongly, that the Maoists forfeited Oli of the chance to introduce a new development paradigm in the country.
The left-coalition between the CPN (UML) and the CPN (MC) was a coincidence of history, which should have been protected at all cost. If this alliance did not exist, the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal 2015 would not have been possible. A continued alliance between the two parties could change the dynamics of political collaboration in the country.
The course comrade Prachanda has embarked on is full of unforeseen challenges. The constituents of this coalition lack the unity of purpose. They have different views on major political issues which they are supposed to address. The ruling coalition will face an uphill task of garnering consensus or the two-thirds majority to be able to meet the demands of the Madhesi Front for re-delineation of the federal border by introducing amendment in the constitution. The Madhesis have been promised the moon, knowing full well that the coalition government is not capable of addressing the demands of the Madhesi Front for delineation of the provincial border without consensus with the UML.
The issue of transitional justice will also pose complication in view of the different views of the Nepali Congress and the CPN (MC). It is a deep emotional issue, which may lead to an intense tussle between those who want justice in terms of criminal accountability and those who are in need of exoneration. The registration of more than 53,000 cases at the TRC for review reveals the depth and breadth of the problem. Unless a broad consensus is built to create standard norms to deal with specific cases, ensuring justice to the victim and simultaneously meeting international human rights standards, the TRC may not be able to help allay the desperation of the leaders of the CPN (MC). Giving acquittal without seriously weighing out the gravity of individual cases will only make the voices for justice louder, and the fear of attracting international jurisdiction to the cases of human rights violation will continue to haunt the perpetrators.
The Constitution of Nepal 2015 is the latest understanding reached at among the political forces. The proclamation of the constitution was able to establish equilibrium among various contending opinions regarding the federal structure. If the adjustment of interest which the constitution has achieved is disrupted, it will immediately threaten the constitutional order and the peaceful co-existence of communities. The declining support base of the Madhes movement and the isolation of its leaders show that the genuine demands of the Madhes have been addressed, and if there are still any grievances left to be addressed, they can be sorted out in a peaceful devolutionary process.
The Madhes-based political movement has raised a lot of distrust and misgivings among all the non-Madhesis and the majority of the Madhesi people because of the inglorious act of the agitators to stage a blockade at the no-man’s land, beseeching a foreign power to put an embargo against their own country and threatening to dismember the Terai from Nepal if the entire flat land is not re-structured into two provinces.
Apart from the above mentioned problems, the CPN (MC) will have a tough time in meeting the deadline for three tiers of elections which must be held before Magh 7, 2074 BS, if it is not to allow the legislative parliament to be dissolved without electing another parliament, paving the way for the failure of the constitution.
Collaboration with the CPN (UML) would have provided enough leverage and legitimacy to hold the election even in a phase-wise manner. In case of such an exigency, the Nepali Congress is not likely to allow the CPN (MC) to do so though such a step may be indispensable for stopping the constitution from becoming a dead letter.
Surviving the adventure
Comrade Prachanda has taken a plunge into the turbid waters of political probabilities. It will be too early to predict whether he will sink or swim. If he can steer through the treacherous course of political expediency for which he has past records, he has a chance of surviving the adventure. If not, his political career may face a disaster of an epic proportion.