UML-Maoist Centre Merger Prachanda Floats Trial Balloons
Ritu Raj Subedi
Prior to his visit to India, Prime Minister and CPN-UML chairman KP Oli wanted to conclude the merger process between his party and the CPN-Maoist Centre so as to gain greater diplomatic leverage in bilateral talks with his Indian counterpart. India has already recognised Oli as a powerful PM with a sweeping electoral mandate back home but, with unification, Nepali PM would enjoy high confidence, enabling him to deal with many a tough agenda couched in diplomatic niceties by the Indian side. The Indian media, known for its cantankerous posture, had made hypercritical reporting and analyses of Oli’s India visit to knock the stuffing out of him. Although Oli seems unfazed by their scathing commentaries, he could not get the chance of dealing with Indian side as the chief of the most powerful party of Nepal largely owing to the hurriedly scheduled visit.
Nonetheless, it is not wise to complete the unification process in haste without settling the substantial yet contested contents both the parties are confronting. Interestingly, they have already decided to unify the parties amidst a fanfare on April 22, coinciding with the birth anniversary of Vladimir Lenin. They are hopeful of ironing out the differences over an array of issues, such as the use of term ‘Janayuddha’ (people’s war), poll symbol and 50/50 share in the central committee by that time. So the Joint Taskforce involving the representatives of both parties had submitted a report to the Party Unification Coordination Committee without resolving these disagreements. Understandably, these disputes will be sorted out only when Oli and Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda rigorously discuss them.
However, the media reported that both the leaders have made their bottom line over those hot subjects. Oli, who was a vocal critic of Maoist insurgency, had put in on the line: ‘the term ‘Janayuddha’ can’t be mentioned in the preamble of the unified party’s statute, and fifty-fifty share in central committee is simply unacceptable. I have already told this to Prachanda.’ Oli made these comments during his meeting with the members of organisation and interim statute draft taskforce from the UML. They were in quandary after Prachanda publicly announced that his party was not ready to unite with the UML if the former was denied equal share in the party wings from centre to the local level. He ruffled feathers of UML stalwarts with his new stance, complicating the unity process.
Before announcing their unification bid, both Oli and Prachanda had agreed on using the poll symbol ‘Sun’ and fielding candidates at 60:40 ratio from UML and MC. Both had put their signatures on the accord document. But Prachanda backtracked from this deal next day, citing that his party comrades did not accept using the ‘Sun’. On the other hand, Oli got it endorsed from his party. UML insiders claim that dispute related to the poll symbol wont’s be a big deal and unlikely to throw a spanner in the unification process.
Meanwhile, Prachanda’s new demand of fifty-fifty share in the CC is seen as his bargaining chip to secure his position in the new party. During the poll, the two parties forged an electoral alliance at 60:40 ratio and the voters elected their candidates at 70:30 ratio. Prachanda is seemingly fearful of his position in the united party. If the party unification takes place on the basis of either 60:40 or 70:30, he might not command 40 per cent majority in both party’s CC and parliamentary party (PP). He must wield 40 per cent of the CC or PP to split the party in case he will find himself in an incompatible position with Oli. As a shrewd political player, he does not want to strike a unity deal unless he is assured of his decisive role in the largest party. His new condition is also seen as a trial balloon to see how the UML would take it. This strategy had worked well in the past, too. He used to put out feelers to assess the views of friends and foes alike, and he would quickly retract his statements if he drew flak over them.
While in the CPN-Maoist Centre, he played second-rung leaders off against each other, putting himself above the factional politics. Even within the UML, he aspires to muster support from those leaders ‘victimised’ by the Oli camp. However, the growing rapprochement between Oli and MK Nepal may put Prachanda on the sidelines. It is imperative for Oli and Nepal to allay his irrational fear in order to expedite the unification process in earnest.
It is learnt that the top leaders had agreed to use the word ‘Janakranti’ (people’s revolution) instead of ‘Janayuddha’ but some Maoist leaders have been insisting that ‘Janayuddha’ be written in the interim statute at any cost. The UML has been describing the decade-long Maoist insurgency as ‘armed conflict’ by cautiously avoiding the term ‘Janayudhha’ because it refused to commend the bellicose movement that took the lives of hundreds of its own leaders and cadres.
The two parties have decided to adopt Marxism-Leninism as the guiding principle of the new party. And their emotional attachment with the revolutionary leader Lenin is quite understandable as they have decided to merge their parties on his birthday. However, this reflects their ideological incongruity as Lenin represented hardliner Marxism contrasting with soft liner Marxism developed and embraced by German socialists, such as Bernstein and Karl Kautsky. Lenin had advocated revolutionary socialism to be attained through the violent and forceful overthrow of the capitalist regime. On the other hand, Bernstein stood for evolutionary socialism that can be achieved through the peaceful and democratic parliamentary system. Today UML and MC are closer to the ideas of German socialists than the Bolshevik leader. It seems they want to keep the revolutionary spirit by recognising Marxism-Leninism as their ideological underpinning.