Delay & Dilemma In UML-MC Unification
The much-talked about unification of two communist parties, the UML and the Maoist Centre (MC), has hit the roadblocks. Although the chairmen of both parties have initiated talks to pave the way for the formation of the joint unification coordination committee to be participated by the top leaders of both parties, it is still unclear whether or not the dialogue between the two would make headway towards the final unification of two communist parties. The chairmen of the UML and MC were compelled to sit for the unification talks after the allegations that some leaders of both parties are against the unification and the high leadership of both parties are not keen towards the merge of their parties started appearing in media.
Even a month after the conclusion of the parliamentary elections that gave the left alliance a majority, the party unification process has not kicked off yet, deepening the suspicion that both parties are quite reluctant for the merger. Some allege that a good number of leaders of both parties have blocked the unification bid as they fear that their roles and spaces will shrink considerably once the two parties get united.
According to the pre-poll deal between the two parties, the chairmen of the two communist parties would be sharing the prime minister or the chairman's post of the unified party if the party had won the majority. Many party functionaries of the UML, the party that have won largest number of parliamentary seats in the recently held elections, have not been forthcoming in conceding the chairman's post to MC chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Soon after the results of polls suggested that UML would emerge as the largest party, the UML general secretary had dropped a bombshell by stating that the prime minister, the leader of the parliamentary party and the party chairman would be the same person. His statement clearly hinted that the UML chairman KP Sharma Oli would enjoy the three posts, which made the Maoist chairman Dahal and his party men suspicious about the UML.
After general secretary's statement, the MC leaders have taken their position-- if UML's Oli becomes new prime minister, the MC chairman Dahal must get the chairman's post in the unified party. The Maoists have also asked that the unification of two parties and the formation of the government should take place simultaneously. They have not supported the idea of forming the government under Oli first and then for going the unification. Some MC leaders have made it clear that the unification would not take place if Dahal fails to get the chairman's position in the unified party.
In the meantime, the problems of managing the senior leaders of their respective parties in the newly unified party appear to have consumed more energy and time of the leadership of the both parties. The senior UML leaders like Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhalnath Khanal, Subhas Nembang, Ishwor Pokhrel, Bam Dev Gautam and many others would be seeking important roles and positions in the unified party while the Maoist leaders, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Barsha Man Pun, Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal and Pampha Bhusal among others would also be seeking senior positions and good roles in the newly created party of the communists.
The amalgamation two different ideologies would give another headache to the party leadership. Both the parties believe in attaining communist socialism but their means to attain it is different. Likewise, many would watch with bated breath the two communist parties when they move ahead to integrate their central working committees members in the new party. At present, the Maoist Centre's central committee has about 4,000 members while the UML has around only 100 plus members. The issue of managing the second and lower rung leaders would too pose a challenge to the leadership of both parties when the parties initiate the unification of their regional, district, municipality level party committees.
The delay in the formation of the new government due to prolonged National Assembly election process has given rise to another suspicion. As the delay continues, the Maoist Centre Chair may listen to the Nepali Congress that has urged him to become the next prime minister for full five-year term on its backing. The Madhesi parties too will throw their weight behind Dahal if he opts to become the next PM on their backing. The Congress and Madhesi proposal might have been aimed at breaking the Left Alliance, but no one can predict wily Dahal's next move. He might well utilise this proposal to pile up pressure on the UML to unify the party at the earliest and hand him the chairman's post, or lose his support in the parliament.
Many think that the delay in the formation of the new government has come as a blessing in disguise for Dahal, who has been getting enough time to exert unseen pressures on the UML to hand him the chairmen's post.
It is alleged that the UML is not moving towards the unification wholeheartedly because many leaders of the party are reluctant to accept Dahal, who, not long time ago, was a shorn adversary of the party, as their chairman. They also fear that the unification of their party, a soft communist, with the hard line communist entity that had joined the mainstream politics only 12 years ago following its decade-long bloody ‘People's War’ in which many UML functionaries and cadres had perished, would not bear any meaningful result for their party. The UML leaders and cadres also suspect that the "crafty" Dahal and his supporters may cause another split in the unified party, if Dahal perceives that his motive behind unifying his party with UML has failed to bring a desired result for him.
Both the communist parties have at present indeed faced a dilemma regarding the party unification. They had won majority in both House of Representatives and provincial assemblies on the unification, stability and prosperity plank. Now, when the time for unification has arrived, the leaders of both communist parties have started looking at each other with increased suspicion.
The two communist parties must unite because they won majority vote on the unification slogan and unification would a way to give respect to the people's mandate. But they cannot do so because many leaders of both parties have started raising suspicion to it, forcing the two top leaders, Oli and Dahal, to issue directives to their party leaders not to utter a word in public against the unification process. The road to unification for both communist parties therefore appears long and arduous one. Even if the unification happens at a certain time, many leaders will find their roles apparently reduced in size and their importance in the party decreased considerably, which will unequivocally create an upheaval in the new party.