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Leadership issue main challenge for unification: Nepal
Senior leader of the CPN-UML Madhav Kumar Nepal is also a former Prime Minister. Whether in holding secret meetings with the Maoists during their armed rebellion back in 2000 to bring them in peaceful mainstream politics or forming a ruling coalition between the two parties as recently as in 2015, leader Nepal has persistently been active in bringing together the communist parties in Nepal. He also played a crucial role in forming the left alliance for the federal and provincial assembly election held recently. As a member of the party unification coordination committee, leader Nepal is presently continuing his effort for unifying the two largest left parties in the country. Given this backdrop, Nandalal Tiwari of The Rising Nepal talked with leader Nepal about issues pertinent to the party unification process between the CPN-UML and the CPN-MC.
What’s your take on the pace of the party unification process between the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Center?
We are still busy with election related works as the National Assembly election is yet to take place. The overall result of the election to the House of Representative is yet to come out. Because of all this, party unification process has not moved ahead at the desired pace. But now we have planned to focus on two main things: one, to settle issues related to party unification and two, to conclude the issues pertinent to formation of the government. In this course, we will settle issues related to provincial government and then to the federal government. Simultaneously, we have felt we need to form two task forces to proceed ahead the party unification process, one, to run discussion on ideological political issues and identify and settle differences if there are any and two, to discuss on organisational structure and management, for instance which leader should have what responsibility in which structure and what are the criteria for such selection.
In my view, the executive committee should be small, functional and efficient. No committee should be oversized which makes it clumsy and non-functional. The bigger the committee the more difficult even to hold meetings. The second thing is our party has become big and there are many cadres and leaders. We have personalities who have good social influence associated in the party. We also have to include them in the party. How to do it? We have to form different social platforms, sister and mass organisations for this. And thus we have to include as many of them. On one hand we have to make the executive committee small, smart and competent, on the other we have to include all. Therefore, we have to strike a good balance in this regard.
Along with the need to settle ideological political issues and form a proper organisational structure, how long will it take to conclude the unification process?
It seems that the party unification process will conclude after forming the government. The discussion and the process have already started. If we can conclude particularly on party leadership issues, we can fix many other things related to management. I don’t think there will be much debate on ideological issues because there is not much dispute over basic premises of People’s Multiparty Democracy (PMD), I mean on multiparty political system, periodic election, majoritarian government and the opposition party, giving constitutional recognition to the opposition party, adhering to check and balance system, respecting human rights and embracing the main spirit or essence of inclusive democracy. Even in the context that the Maoists have adopted the People’s Democracy in the 21st Century, I don’t think there is any difference with regard to the essence of the PMD.
Despite the coordination committee, chiefs of the two parties seem to be given the sole power to make decision on unification. How do you see this process?
This should not be taken as something otherwise. There is no need to make it an issue as the two main leaders have to settle issues concerning to them. They have to understand each other’s desires through different means and talks in person. However, our communist party is run scientifically in matters related to organisation. It wants to adopt scientific methods, emphasizes on proper evaluation of the cadres, lays emphasis on institutional system and on assessment of every individual and, it expects, naturally, discussion and debate within the committee and that a situation is created for all to follow the decision of the committee. Thus, it carries on the theory of people’s centralism which means wide use of centralism or conducting wide debate and discussion, share ideas within, as there is a saying Bade Bade Jayate Tatwa Bodh ( essence is known through debate) in the Sanskrit. We lay emphasis on discussion adhering to the norm that we can reach a right conclusion once views of all are brought together. This process helps to refine opinions and perceptions of all and when we take a decision through this way a situation emerges wherein all follow the conclusion. If we don’t follow this or take decision individually, the other will not own the decision and perform responsibility. And this brings you to the point of neglecting inclusiveness. Presently, we have been saying in the society that there is lack of inclusiveness, and if we don’t follow the right process of holding discussion and taking decision or I mean inclusiveness- our communist party has adopted theory of inclusiveness long ago-, this will result in brushing aside inclusiveness. For all this, I put stress on adopting the committee methods or process.
Some international power centres are said to be trying to abort the left unity. Have you felt or experienced any pressure against the unity?
Well, nobody has exerted any pressure on me or said anything against the unity. I have not perceived anyone as obstacles with regard to party unification between the two parties. We don’t know who has what in their mind. And it is useless to go after them. We should not blame others on the basis of our doubt. There is saying, check your pocket blame none. It is pointless to complain of getting stolen for failing to keep one’s pocket well. We have to manage our home well in a proper manner in initiatives and involvement of all the concerned. It is not correct tendency to point at others as obstacles, make complaints and express helplessness.
What are the remaining challenges to conclude the unification process on the basis of discussion held and decision taken so far, for instance the two parties recently took a decision to share seats in the NA?
As I said above with regard to party unification, management of ideology is one aspect. It is ideological issue in which the communist parties have the toughest debate. Secondly, it is the tendency to insist what thought I have taken is correct, my views are right. Such a situation demands for a discussion: what Nepali society is like, what is the power balance among the classes here, to what level the Nepali society has developed and to which direction can it move. We have to discuss and analyse all this to reach a conclusion. After this, another big challenge is evaluating and identifying persons and placing them at proper places. Ways out can be found even in this. I think we can find out solution to ideology as well as organisational management.
Given your persistence efforts to unify communist parties, how do you feel now that the two parties are getting unified soon?
Well, the way we concluded the peace process, settle issues related to federalism as raised in the Constituent Assembly, concluded the constitution writing process, we can take to a conclusion to the party unification process. In the run up to the recent House of Representative and provincial Assembly elections, two alliances were formed: the left alliance and the democratic alliance. The left alliance could manage well the share of seats despite the constituents of the alliance, CPN-UML and CPN-MC, have a lot more party cadres and leaders. We managed it. But the democratic alliance could not do so -share the seats. This means the left alliance has the capacity, necessary flexibility and the spirit and will to keep the interest of the organisation/institution in the center. Now, if we talk about the mass, the people, instead of rights, we have to talk about how to perform duties. We have to carry out many development works in a result-oriented way in a very short time. If we can do it, we can respond to people’s high expectation and confidence on us. We have a pile of challenges before us and there are opportunities as well. Bureaucracy is still old-fashioned one, there is no cohesion in thoughts and plans and we have to have coordination among different sectors, let it be physical infrastructure and hydropower resource development, tourism promotion or modernisation of agriculture sector, industrial development and development of science and technology. We have to move ahead by striking a proper balance among all these. We can do a lot if we actively work on them. We should not engage in infighting to grab the position but move ahead with conclusion about the most suitable figures for the task.
Given the people’s mandate and the commitment of the two parties, the left alliance will soon form a new government soon. As a former Prime Minister, what do you think should be the priorities of the new government?
First priority of the government of the left alliance should be on how to take the country to a status of a developing and then to a developed country from the present status of a least developed country and how to solve the problem of unemployment. And the local levels should be focused on building and maintenance of roads and other necessary local development activities, including employment generation. All levels of the government should work actively in a fine coordination to accommodate as many people as we can. If we can do this, we can also ensure issues of social justice and solve the problems related to people’s livelihood and living conditions.
It is almost certain the left alliance will give a political stability for at least the next five years. Do you think it will bring about tremendous socio-economic transformation as well?
It is our responsibility to ensure political stability and social justice in our country. For this, we have to create unity, mutual respect, harmony, collaboration, co-existence and mutual understanding among all the castes and ethnic communities in the country. Secondly, we have to complete remaining tasks related to peace process. We should not keep the wounds of war pending and reviving. Thirdly, people want development and prosperity. We should be able to deliver on this. People want building of roads, drinking water, hygiene and cleanness, employment, development of industries. Therefore, we have to focus on producing quality, competent and educated human resources and explore all ways to generate employment.
At present, agriculture should be taken as a foundation of Nepali economy. We have to modernise agriculture, which means commercialisation and mechanisation of agriculture. Once we do it, we can end imports of food grains, instead export them and thus be self-reliant on agriculture products. Secondly, hydropower and tourism should be taken as backbone of Nepal’s economy. Thirdly, we have focus on optimum utilisation of science and technology. Fourthly, we have to pay due attention to exploring mines and minerals in Nepal and establishing of industries. Basis of all these is development of physical infrastructure which means development of roadways, airways and railways. Among these three, road is the backbone of all. In matters related to widening and building of mid-hill highway, postal highways in the Terai and expansion of the east-west highway, we have to have a special focus. Similarly, we have to heed properly to construction of north-south corridors/roadways such as linking north and south by roads along the Koshi River, the Gandaki, the Karnali and the Mahakali. If we build these corridors and highways, we will have a big road network. There is also need to build metro-railways and flyovers in Kathmandu in addition to maintaining greenery and cleanliness in the cities.
So far as immediate issues related to providing relief and grant to the victims of the earthquake and the necessity to manage landless squatters and those without house and land is concerned, we have to give priority to three things at the national level. First, we should prioritise issuing national identity card, second, poverty identification card, third is moving into e-governance. We have to regulate borders and digitalised immigration system and airports.
The other important thing is installing a one door system under the Prime Minister’s office for completing the process related to the development projects. This is very important in the context of local as well as bureaucratic hurdles as complained by developers. This will help to attract foreign direct investment as concerned agencies can pay direct attention to the needs of the developers.
I already said about roadways. In this respect, let me add one more thing that lately we have been focusing on developing smart cities. In this regard, let me make a point that during my premiership I had endorsed building of some 10 smart cities along the mid-hill highways. And it was during the UML’s government that the decision to develop settlements along postal highways in Terai was taken. Different government ministries have come up with different projects for developing smart cities. About 20 to 30 smart cities are to be developed across the country including one in Kathmandu. If we employ some 10,000 technicians, engineers for such a city, we can provide employment to about 300,000 technical persons in this project. If we come up such projects, we will have no problem of unemployment in the country. All in all, we have to generate internal revenue for our development and not rely solely on remittance as in the present.
Do you have anything to add?
You questions included almost every issue. People have high expectation from the left alliance and showed confidence through the votes. The left alliance has secured nearly a two-thirds votes. Left alliance is forming the new government not only in the centre but also in six out of seven provinces. Additionally, the alliance has about 60 per cent of the local governments. Because of all these, we have to work hard to deliver to the people as promised. There is no need to get scared that the government will be run as per our philosophy, world outlook and views because we are committed to democracy, we will not allow democracy to weaken, no one’s right will be snatched, society will not be turned closed one, people will be empowered, enriched with rights, we will keep adopting market system, we will also pay attention to social security issues and development of competent, skilled human resources. We have a good past track records in all these regards. Therefore, I believe everyone is optimistic about the left alliance and its government.