New Frontier Of Consciousness
Dr. Narad Bharadwaj
The initiative, taken last week by the CPN- UML and the CPN -Maoist Centre towards electoral alliance culminating in the party unity, constitutes an unprecedented moment in the history of the perennially divisive communist movement in Nepal. It has brought a surge of hope among the people that the proposed electoral alliance will bring about an unprecedented change in the political equation in the country if it is executed without any hindrance.
The announcement of electoral alliance constitutes a new frontier of consciousness for the Nepali communists. However, the proposed electoral alliance and the vision of unification of the party are not free from pitfalls. As the top leadership of the two parties keep themselves busy working out mutually acceptable sharing of seats in the imminent election for the provincial and national parliaments, the lower and mid-level party workers appear confused and skeptical about the unfolding scenario.
The confusion and the nervousness in the rank and file of these parties emanate from the antagonistic relations these parties have harboured against each other in the past decade during their bitter struggle for political turfs. There were moments in the past, when the relations between these parties were marred with violent contradictions. In the past, their differences were based on ideological, strategic and tactical issues. During the insurgency period, the Maoist Centre‘s militants committed atrocities against UML cadres. During the peace process, the UML cadres, too, stood firmly against giving immunity to insurgents from the accountability for war time crimes.
Later, when the UML was providing a firm leadership to the nation by successfully extricating it from the clutches of Indian blockade and creating a theoretical basis for diversifying international export-import trade, the Maoist Centre betrayed it. It went even so far as to form a coalition with Nepali Congress to subvert the UML-led government.
As a coalition partner of the Nepali Congress, the Maoist Centre became privy to Nepali Congress’s attempt to dismantle the good works done by the UML government. It agreed to become an accomplice to Nepali Congress’s attempt to tilt Nepal’s foreign policy to south by remaining apathetic towards the need of taking initiative in implementing trade and transit agreement signed with China by the KP Oli-led government. Its delay in endorsing One Belt One Belt (OBOR) project also considerably damaged Nepal’s prospects for benefiting from China’s early investment in Nepal’s development infrastructures.
The Maoist Centre’s anti-UML policies continued until it faced a widespread defeat in all the three phases of the local elections last month as against the wave of victory which the UML was graced with despite its relatively poor showing in the election of Province 2. It can be understood that the bitter lesson which the Maoist Centre must have learnt during the election may have dawned on it the realisation of unity and alliance with the left-democratic forces.
In democratic societies, it is common for political parties to form electoral alliances for the purpose of gaining advantage over competing political forces. In Nepal’s context, also the newly formed left electoral alliance cannot be viewed as something impossible. But the context in which it has happened has brought it under the scan of public scrutiny.
The announcement of electoral alliance between the two largest left political parties has an element of surprise. Until the end of the local elections the MC and the UML were fighting tooth and nail for political advantage. The Maoist Centre had entered into coalition with the ruling party Nepali Congress and was bringing all the fire and fury against the UML in the hope of weakening its political base.
During the first and the second phase of the election, the MC and the UML were erecting barricades against each other. The election for the mayoral candidate at Bharatpur Municipality had become life and death issue for both the parties. When the UML’s candidate Devi Gyawali maintained a lead in the counting of votes, the representatives of the MC present at the counting booth tore ballot papers, leading to the re-polling in the concerned booth. This incident and the growing closeness of the MC with the Nepali Congress and the Terai-based pro- Indian forces had widened rift with the UML, making it look like these parties would never come close together again.
Despite the acrimony that exists against the MC among the rank and file of the UML, the prospect of unity among left forces has been accepted with considerable grace by its leaders and cadres. This has also spread a message of happiness among the general people. In Nepali society, a large majority of the people believe that only united left forces are capable of bringing about the socio-economic transformation in the country. The decision of the two leftist parties to form alliance shares this mass consciousness.
In fact, the quest for a single communist party is a cherished dream for a vast multitude of the left-leaning people in Nepal. If the initiative of electoral alliance works well till the end of the election and the parties move further ahead towards the unification of the party as has been projected in the announcement, it is likely to open a new era of socio-economic transformation in Nepal.
Historically, the communist parties used to be monolithic organisations. The great polemic of 1963 started a vicious cycles of split in the international communist movement. The canker of divisiveness had entered Nepali communist movement about the same time, to be precise, from the 3rd national congress of the Communist Party of Nepal. The process of unification was started by the Jhapa Movement a decade later, coalescing a large number of independent factions to form the largest national level communist party with the name of UML.
During the insurgency period, the then CPN-Maoist, too, was able to unite some minor radical factions under an extremist political banner emerging later as a national level competitor of the UML. The existence of two communist parties in the country with divergent views and political, ideological line had polarised people and had given political space for Nepali Congress to hold monopoly in political affairs.
The left political forces have a vast but fragmented mass base. They harboured a tendency of split either on the basis of ideology or on the issue of practical political niceties. The prolonged history of divisiveness of left parties has retarded the whole democratic movement of Nepal. Because of the state of their disunity, the autocratic Panchayat system ruled the country for thirty years. Even after the overthrow of the Panchayat system, the country’ socio- economic status did not change palpably. The reason for this is the failure of left political parties to establish a stable government by winning majority in the parliament.
The new initiative for left unity has triggered a process of a fresh alignment and re-alignment among political forces. All the political entities of worth appear busy drawing battle lines for the imminent electoral show down. The left initiative has generated optimism but it is too early to predict if the two largest left political parties look to broader strategic objectives or are held captive to narrow and immediate political gain in terms of the number of seats or high berths in the government. Much will depend on the maturity of the leadership. If the leaders of these parties can handle fragile transition, leading to successful unification, Nepal is likely to go down in history as a testing ground for a successful revolutionary transformation.