The Unification Deadlock
The much- hyped merger between CPN-UML, the largest party in the recent election and CPN (Maoist Centre) has witnessed some hiccups in the latest round of political development. This has not only postponed the April 22 unification but also raised some pertinent questions about the possibility of the merger in the future. The original plan of announcing the unification marking the birth anniversary of Lenin, a renowned communist revolutionary and a political theorist has taken a backseat with various contentious issues still prevalent between both the parties.
Touted as an important breakthrough towards ensuring political stability in the country, the chairman of both parties have attached due significance to the merger between their parties who were highly critical of each other in the past. Interestingly, the euphoria of this integration has been low in the second generation of leaders compared to the topmost leaders on both sides since the very beginning of this discourse. In fact, a certain section of leaders have publicly expressed their resentment towards the merger without addressing ideological and organisational issues. Moreover, questions have been raised within the party meetings regarding the process of unity along with the issue of transparency and fair representation of all party leaders.
In a bid to give momentum to the pending integration process, the supremos of both parties had struck a 7 point deal two months back. The important points of the deal include: Marxism-Leninism as its guiding principles, deliberations upon People’s Multi-party Democracy (‘Janata Ko Bahudaliya Janawad’) and Maoism at the general convention of the unified party, co-chairing of the party by both party stalwarts among others. However, at the moment, things haven’t looked highly optimistic in favour of the unification heading to a logical conclusion.
Although the media reports suggest that 80 per cent of the disputes relating to merger have been settled, the remaining 20 per cent still stands tall in the unification process. With the Maoist party demanding 50 per cent of the share in the unified party, the situation has further aggravated. Demanding equal representation in central committees and other executive bodies, the disgruntled Maoists have expressed their reluctance to merge in unequal status.
Ranging from election symbols to the recognition of the ‘people’s war’ in the statute of the integrated leftist party, there are still significant matters of disagreements between them. While the CPN-UML has given a green signal to acknowledge the people’s war, it is still adamant on negotiating over the election symbol.
Nevertheless, the management of leaders- particularly the second generation has become challenging to materialise this unity. Rising expectations among the leaders for influential party positions have historically appeared to be difficult even within the own party. Thus, it is natural that for these leaders to harbour a political dream, the management of which has appeared daunting for the party chiefs.
Of late, the news of the Maoist chairman suspicion over the handover of the chairmanship to him after the merger has flooded the media. Analyses are pouring in relating to the current mindset of Prachanda and the possible consequences that his party has to bear if this process ‘bites the dust’. The invisible fear stems from the rumor that the UML chairman KP Oli has an implicit understanding with his counterpart Madhav Kumar Nepal over the handover of the leadership to him after the merger. The ambitious nature of leadership inherent in Prachanda has one again become exposed but this time, it will be the heaviest loss for his party than any others in case the unification attempts fail.
Again, the implication of this process could be high in the existing balance of power in the government. With the Maoists ministers in the present government already dissatisfied with the manner of PM Oli who has the tendency to make sole decisions without adequate consultation, a conflict has already ensued between these two important political forces in the present context of Nepal.
More importantly, the public hope for a stable government may also be dashed in case of the negative result of this attempt. Growing public aspirations to see socio-economic transformation in the country under the leadership of the present government for a full term might face hindrances along the way if the process derails.
Hence, it is imperative that the champions of the unity cause shoulder responsibilities and implement the pledges made towards their cadres and the general public. Stepping back from the original stance of individual ambitions will be very important though it isn’t an easy task that too in politics. In the same way, creating a ‘win-win’ situation in which both parties happily accept the merger will be crucial.
Managing expectations of their fellow leaders require a display of exceptional leadership from both the party chairman. At a time when the cadres at the local level have already given a nod to this initiative, it is unfortunate that complexities exist among the senior and middle level party leaders for attractive political berths.