Looming Crisis In CPN (MC)
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
The media circle, especially the online world, is agog at the news that former Prime Minister and chairman of the CPN (MC) Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda reportedly proposed dissolution of his party at the meeting of his party’s central secretariat. Though Prachanda tried to take a damage control measure during political orientation programme organised at Janakpur for his party workers Monday, it has already set off a shockwave of sorts in political circle.
During his meeting with his party workers, Prachanda accused the media of propagating his remark in an inflammatory manner and set the record right by attaching a context to his remark. He said that the rank and file of his party had become disappointed from the failure to win people’s support in the local elections despite the ‘quality performance’ of his party in comparison with those other political forces. He clarified that he had tried to re-energise his party comrades by saying that it would be better to dissolve the party rather than letting it live without strength to meet the emerging challenges.
In his long political career, Prachanda has said many things without meaning it. However, he had never made such a self-effacing statement in his life, not even in the harshest period of insurgency when death must have brushed past him close by many times. Now that the Maoist supremo is talking about dissolving his party, he must be going through a sombre period of soul searching.
For a person like Prachanda who has seen amazing rise and fall in political fortune, it is natural to suffer such a swing in psychological proclivity. Coming from a modest rural background, Prachanda earned name and fame by leading a world’s unique insurgency to an unbelievable global limelight. But his decline started as soon as his party came to government signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on November 5, 2006.
Despite winning the largest number of seats in the first Constituent Assembly election, his party could not lead the nation to the path of democratisation and prosperity. Instead, it adopted the policy of inciting ethnic, regional and other minority constituencies to raise issues which could divide the society, create space for external forces to poke their nose into and weaken national integration. During the debate in the first CA Prachanda remained the flag bearer of the forces which moved heaven and earth to create constitutional basis for ethnic identity-based federalism. His party played a leading role in distorting history, defaming national heroes and debasing cultural heritages. Justice was not given to the victims of excesses committed during the conflict era. This disenchanted the people with the Maoist party. But Prachanda hardly cared about his waning popularity.
Prachanda’s inconsistent foreign policy may also have contributed to the rapid erosion of the mass base of his party. At one point Prachanda spit fire and brimstone against India. At others, he calibrated his tone gradually going cosy with the southern neighbour marking a major departure from his earlier positions. In his zeal to become prime minister, he broke a natural alliance with the UML choosing an incompatible coalition with the Nepali Congress. This alliance gave him an indulgence of power, but only at the cost of the entire popular aura that he had earned during and in the immediate aftermath of the conflict era.
The poor performance of his party in the second CA election might have been a reprimand from its electorate. But his party refused to take a lesson. The devastating defeat of this party at the just concluded local elections was perhaps the last straw on the camel’s back.
Could these developments be the reasons for Prachanda’s proposal for dissolution of his party? Or are there deeper nuances to it? It may be necessary to hold the recent political developments to scrutiny to find answers.
Viewing from the surface, it appears that Prachanda is straining hard to hold his position under an immense pressure from his detractors both within and outside his party. To talk about the inner dynamics, the process of division started by Matrika Prasad Yadav has whittled down his party both in size and influence. The desertion of Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and Kiran Baidya has divested it of its ideological and intellectual contents. Netra Bikram Chand has lured a sizable number of militant youths from it. The drumming it received during the local elections has greatly demoralised the rank and file in his party hierarchy.
Another worrying aspect bedevilling this party is the challenge of resource generation. All the political parties of Nepal depend on donation from business houses and financial contribution from elected representatives, especially the member of the parliament. Membership levy is no longer the main financial source of any party, the CPN (MC) being no exception. In coming days, the reduced number of seats both at the local bodies and the parliament is sure to make the challenge of meeting the party’s financial needs a tough proposition.
Making matter worse, Prachanda’s one-upmanship within the party hierarchy is contributing to weaken the tradition of collective decision making. There are indications of inner party struggles between him and Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the only remaining and recognisable theoretician of the party. If he fails to address Shrestha’s concerns and aspirations, Prachanda may be left to lead only a conforming crowd which can neither bring creativity nor add content to the party’s intellectual leadership.
The CPN (MC) is a political party which has not evolved through democratic mass movement in the manner the CPN (UML) has. It has embraced peaceful democratic norms after it relinquished the course of armed revolution. It is, therefore, still in a moulting stage. It has embraced the goals of democratic transformation, but its inner structure remains tied to war era organisational framework where non-conformists will find it difficult even to breathe freely.
A political party’s rise and fall are often determined by objective conditions not by subjective wishes of an individual. A political party can never gain strength if it is not taking cue from the swinging moods and aspirations of the people. But the CPN (MC) has been framing its policies and strategies to usurp power through opportunistic alliances and green signals from external powers. People have ceased to be a factor in its scheme of things.
If this party’s poor performance at the local elections is any indication, chairman Prachanda’s pessimistic view to his party’s future is but natural. His leadership is likely to face an unprecedented organisational crisis in the days to come, especially if the CPN (MC) cannot improve its electoral prospects in the forthcoming provincial and national elections.
Comrade Prachanda, therefore, might have felt it appropriate to share the looming crisis with his top lieutenants at the secretariat meeting instead of saying everything was hunky-dory. Another purpose which Prachanda’s confession might be serving is to silence dissenting crew members of his party into submission exposing them to a catastrophic eventuality. The third possibility might be that he was only echoing the true voice of his inner soul.
A number of psychoanalytic theories can be invoked to scrutinise the pessimistic outpourings of Prachanda. But what is certain is that his proposal to dismantle the party can be a premonition of impending organisational emergency. The CPN (MC) now looks like a confused mass of crowd milling around for a direction. Its infatuation for sticking to power in an incompatible alliance with the Nepali Congress has cost it dearly.
At a time when it would be expected to play more effective role in the implementation of the Constitution, it appears lost in the tumult of political competition. In political domain, the CPN (MC) is no longer in a position to call the shots. This party has now but two options. It should either reinvent itself as a patriotic, independent party with a distinct political programme for social economic transformation by doing everything it can to widen its popular base or be prepared to wither away.