Welcome Left Unity With Caution
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
The announcement of the decision of party unification Tuesday by CPN-UML, CPN-Maoist Centre and Naya Shakti Party Nepal has taken Nepal’s political stage by storm. The announcement which looked like an impossible feat in view of the bitter relation these parties harboured towards each other till the end of the local election has proved once again that politics is a game of unlimited probabilities.
The announcement of the decision of unification came in a complex psychological milieu through which all the three political forces are negotiating their way forward, especially after the conclusion of the elections for the local bodies. The local election was an occasion for all the three parties to sound the depth of their popular base and carry out some introspection.
The UML came victorious by bagging the majority in terms of the number of seats it won in the election. The other two parties, the Maoist Centre and Naya Shahkti Nepal fared badly in the election which exposed their miserable mass base.
The UML had demonstrated a splendid electoral prowess in the first and the second phases of the local election drubbing both the Nepali Congress and the Maoist Centre. But its performance in the third phase of election was less than satisfactory. UML’s poor performance in Province 2 could have prompted this party to do some soul searching so that a new opening could be found in recovering the lost ground.
The announcement of the decision for unity among these three leftist parties has set off a ripple in the national politics. It has taken many people by surprise. Some analysts have also expressed their doubt concerning the durability of unity among forces which were having a cut throat competition for political supremacy till last week.
The initiative for party unification and electoral alliance has come only a month before the elections for the national parliament and the provincial assemblies are scheduled to be held. The decision may add huge burden for the Election Commission in terms of readjustment of the ballot papers and other logistical requirements.
The way this new alliance has been formed, it can be seen that Nepal’s politics is on the verge of polarisation along the democratic left and liberal rightist force represented by the Nepali Congress.
This new development has triggered a discussion among the left leaning forces about the possible direction of the left political movement in Nepal. In response to the new challenge, the liberal rightist forces, the Nepali Congress, Rastriya Janata Party (RJP) and other Terai-based regional parties have also started counter mobilisation.
As mixed reaction circulates in the social media about the political implications of the proposed unity and electoral alliance among the three leftist parties, there are people who are eager to point out to the role of external forces in bringing about this unity.
Dragging external factors in Nepal’s internal political dynamics is a part of Nepal’s political culture. The emerging new political equation, too, is not immune to it. There are people who insinuate that the new left alliance is a reflection of China’s growing political clout in Nepal’s internal politics.
This suggestion, however, holds no water. Talking about the context of the left unity, UML chairperson and former prime minister KP Oli has brushed aside any external power play in Nepal’s internal left political dynamics. He has hinted that unity among the leftist forces is the aspiration of the people and a lingering agenda of the communist movement stretching to more than 68 years.
In Nepal, a vast number of people have a left leaning. It is a long cherished aspiration of the supporters of the democratic left ideology to see the unification of the leftist parties. People believe that the key of socio-economic transformation of the country lies in the unity of the left forces.
The number of people who look up to the Nepali Congress as a force capable of bringing social changing is declining steadily. People often look at it as a party which clings to status quo without taking strides towards drastic socio-economic transformation. This party has stopped catching the imagination of the people as a harbinger of change. This is why there is so much public curiosity and debate on major political move the leftist parties take as they struggle to overcome divisiveness among them.
The proposed left alliance which has been formalised by a six-point agreement sounds unexpected. But the efforts for unity were going on for quite some time. Considerable progress was made in the direction of forging long-term alliance between UML and the Maoist Centre during KP Oli-led coalition government. But the decision of Prachanda to jump ship and forge alliance with the Nepali Congress broke off the process, forcing the nation to sail through rough waters again.
Prachanda had done a great disservice to the cause of the left unity when he discarded UML and forged alliance with the Nepali Congress. It was an aberration which cost him and his party dearly. He was then judged as a spineless and opportunist leader. His alliance with the Nepali congress not only eroded his power base but also whittled down his stature as party leader who had once led an armed insurrection. The greatest price he paid for his act of forming coalition government with the Nepali congress was a total rout in the local election.
The fresh leftist alliance and the proposed party unification among the three parties, has touched the Nepali Congress in the raw. As Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba explores possibility of mustering support to survive the possible withdrawal of the Maoist Centre from the coalition government, his deputy Ram Chandra Paudel has attacked the leftist unification saying that it was ‘unnatural ‘ and ‘opportunist’.
The news about the unity among the left parties has brought optimism among the left leaning masses. But there are questions of durability of such a move in view of the fissiparous tendency that exists in the left camp. The erratic nature and inconsistency of comrade Prachanda also make people doubtful about the permanence of the unity. The people feel that there is not much hope on comrade Prachanda remaining firm on the six-point commitment which he has signed with KP Oli. But if he stands his ground, the proposed left unity has the potential of emerging as a game changer in breaking Nepal’s political stagnation. However, if he wavers from the path of unity and gives in, the left unity will suffer an unprecedented setback.
There are many slips between the cup and the lip. A great hope of unity and understanding has been raised in the hearts of the people and not without reasons. If this unity and electoral alliance can be implemented it will definitely result in victory of the leftist parties in successfully implementing the constitution and paving the way for durable peace and stability in the country.
A great and unprecedented step has been taken towards left unity. But it will be too early to be euphoric about it. Now the political scene is still quite confused with rival ambitions and aspirations competing fiercely for space. It will, therefore, be rational to wait and watch the unfolding political drama.