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Framework of party unity before government formation: Shrestha
As a senior leader of the CPN-Maoist Centre, Narayan Kaji Shrestha ‘Prakash’ was actively involved in the formation of the Left Alliance. He had also played a crucial role in the formation of the coalition government of the CPN (UML) and CPN-Maoist Centre back in 2015. Presently, as a member of the coordination committee to unify the UML and the MC, Shrestha is working on the process and basis for such unification. However, the unification process has not taken the expected pace, and doubts have been raised about the Left Alliance and party unity. Nandalal Tiwari of The Rising Nepal talked with Shrestha on issues relating to the Left Alliance, government formation and party unity.
The Left Alliance seems to be staggering lately, giving rise to doubts about party unification between the CPN-UML and the CPN-MC. What is happening at the moment?
The Nepali people have supported the Left Alliance for the objective that it has been formed. The Left Alliance is not staggering, and it will not be so. We are moving ahead to form a left government, and we will ensure a stable government for the next five years to bring in socio-economic transformation.
With regard to party unity, we have already pledged to unify the two parties and also made public commitment to it. We are doing the necessary homework of the process for party unity. We are confident of taking the process in the positive direction and conclude the party unification.
But even the meeting of the coordination committee for party unity has not been held.
Chiefs of the two parties have started discussion with a view to fixing the agenda for the meeting of the party coordination committee for party unity. They have held serious discussion a few times. The meeting could not take place lately due to the unfavourable health condition of CPN-UML chair KP Oli. The two leaders are expected to hold a meeting anytime soon. Once the top leaders frame the agenda for the coordination committee, we will hold the meeting without delay. This is how the process will move forward.
What will take place first, party unity or government formation?
What we previously thought and said was that we would take both the process of party unity and government formation simultaneously. Ideally, we also had the feeling to conclude party unity before the government formation so that we have a government of a unified party. But because of the constitutional and legal limitations, if the country reaches a point wherein we have to form the government, we cannot wait for party unification. In that case, we have to go for government formation. However, for various reasons, the process to form the government is likely to be delayed. Therefore, there is great possibility that the framework for party unity will be prepared before the government’s formation.
You have for long been involved in the formation of the Left Alliance and party unity. Do you think the portfolios in the course of government formation and sharing of the organisational powers in the party among the leaders of the two parties will somehow affect the proposed unity?
We thought from a great height and formed the Left Alliance with decided to unify the two parties. We formed the Left Alliance to grab the emerging possibilities for the country. We drew the conclusion that there was possibility to create a basis for building socialism in Nepal through peaceful political competition by implementing the constitution and by forming a government under the leadership of the communist party, and that such a government would safeguard national sovereignty and achieve prosperity characterised by social justice.
We also analysed that if we didn’t form the alliance and unify our parties, the country would be led by bourgeois forces, which means continuity of the situation of compromise on issues of national sovereignty, making the constitution, which aims at inclusive democracy, ineffective and limiting the achievements to the traditional parliamentary system, keeping the people in poverty and stagnating the living conditions of the people. We formed the alliance to check the development of negative possibilities. We knew such possibilities in the absence of our unity or Left Alliance, would be a betrayal of the people and the communist movement. Hence, we made a historic decision to form the Left Alliance and unify the parties for the people’s prosperity with social justice.
We felt the need to unify the communist movement in Nepal. We thought a unified communist party should and could perform these tasks. Therefore, we thought from far above with adequate sense of responsibility, by keeping the country and people at the centre, and took the decision. Hence, small debates or things will not affect or obstruct the overall grand process of party unity.
With regard to the homework to take the party unity process to a conclusion, yes, we have yet to complete that. And now we are preparing to work on mainly two points for it. First, to fix the ideological and political line for this interim period, which will be synthesised through debate and discussion in the unified party, and second, to prepare the basis for the formation of party leadership and organisational structure. We have been doing homework on these two matters.
And there is a third thing- advancing Marxism and developing a new political line and raising Nepal’s communist movement to a newer height by analysing international as well as Nepal’s communist movement. We have to frame methods for study, debate and discussion for this. Once we complete the first two points, we will proceed to the third and then conclude the party unification process.
What are the main challenges facing the Left Alliance, party unity process or formation of government?
There are not many challenges with the Left Alliance or formation of the government. We don’t have complexities or challenges internally because we have already published a common manifesto, and we have no difficulties in selecting the leadership and taking other necessary decisions to form the new government. We can easily conclude who will handle the government leadership. And we have already mentioned the objective and programmes of the government in the manifesto. Therefore, there is no complexity or challenge with the two parties to form the government and move ahead for socio-economic transformation.
But after the grand success of the alliance in the elections, we have seen activities and attempts to delay the formation of the Left Alliance government. As the people have mandated us, all the obstructions will sooner or later be overcome.
In relation to party unity, different sides are still active to fail the Alliance. We had assumed the possibility of such attempts even in the past when we formed the alliance. We knew different power centres and sides would come together to make the Left Alliance a failure. As we had made a historic decision, we knew it was not easy to make it a success, and we had made the determination to overcome all the obstacles. Hence, different attitudes and attempts to fail the Left Alliance and create fissures within and obstruct party unity at any cost from different forces are not unique. Despite all these, we are determined to solidify the alliance, form the government and lead the country to socio-economic transformation and create a new Nepal.
How do you perceive the offer made by the Nepali Congress and other parties to support CPN-MC chairman Prachanda as the PM for the next five years?
Our party chairman comrade Prachanda also briefed the party meeting about such an offer, and he has also said this even at public forums. But what we would like to tell everyone is that we will not go against the verdict of the people and the commitment we have made. We formed the Left Alliance and pledged to form a government of the Alliance. The people’s mandate is also this.
For those political parties and forces that plan to form the government under the leadership of our party chairman by dividing the Left Alliance, we have nothing to say to them. They have the right to make offers. However, they should clearly understand that we will never ever go in that direction
There was a left government even in the past. It could not continue for long despite the high expectations. What guarantee is there that the Left Alliance will not face the same fate this time?
The situation is different this time at least for three reasons. First, we formed the Alliance before the election and went to the people with a common manifesto. Second, we are with the people’s verdict for a Left Alliance. Third, we have made a commitment for party unity, and we are doing homework to conclude the unification process by forming the party unity coordination committee. Even then, we should be careful all the time to correct the shortcomings we had in the past.
How have you found the views of the UML with regard to government formation and party unification?
Overall, we have found the UML committed to party unity, and we are confident. At the grass roots level, all our party members, both of the MC and UML, well-wishers as well as the general people have mandated us through the elections for party unity. In fact, the people’s verdict expressed in the recently held federal parliament as well as provincial assembly elections is obviously for government formation and equally for party unity. And we have found that the UML, both in thought and action, is for party unity. We see the occasional expressions that do not comply with the spirit of unity as exceptions.
It is said the second-rung leaders of the two parties are more concerned about their political career than party unity.
I don’t think so. In such a big process, we should not expect each and every thought, view, or presentation from leaders to perfectly fit the unity process or spirit. Occasionally, questionable presentations are made. But we have to take all such things as normal because we should not presume that everyone makes perfectly fine expressions and no leader thinks of keeping him at the centre in such a big movement. Such expressions do not portend the trend. The main attitude is minimum agreement on ideological, political line and preparing the basis for respectful unification of the organisational structures and moving ahead by striking consensus through study, debate and discussion on our differences with regard to thoughts.
Given the achievements made so far, how long will it take for party unification?
It is difficult at this point to predict the exact date. Even then, as the government formation process has been delayed, there is high possibility that we will reach a conclusion about the ideological, political as well as organisational bases for party unity.
Ragini Upadhyay Grela is a well-known Nepali artist. A graduate in fine arts from Lucknow College of Arts, India in 1982, Upadhyay won a British...