UML-MC Unity: A Sisyphean Task?
Ritu Raj Subedi
Communists often claim that their ultimate goal is to establish a class-less egalitarian and equal society. But, their lofty aim contradicts with their petty ideological position. They are split over trivial issues, overshadowing their central objectives and mission. In Nepal and elsewhere, communist parties have wasted much of their energy and time in futile bickering associated with ideology, movement and personality of particular leaders. For example, some Nepali communist parties had divided over how to evaluate the role of Chairman Mao’s youngest wife Jiang Qing: was she a revolutionary or counter-revolutionary? They had bitterly quarreled over whether Soviet leader Stalin was 70 per cent right and 30 per cent wrong or vice-versa? Given these trifling disputes in the past, the spat between CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre over the missing of Lenin’s image on a banner is not surprising at all. But what is astonishing is that the two big left parties are deferring the day of merger announcement on one or another pretext.
Scene of rumpus
On April 22, they were supposed to get united as the day was associated with two special events - it was the birth anniversary of V. I. Lenin and the establishment of Communist Party of Nepal. Quite the contrary, the day turned into a scene of rumpus and chaos inside the Rastriya Sabha Griha where the two parties held a joint programme to mark the day. The reasons: the banner hanging on the wall did not contain the picture of Lenin, the embossed image of MC chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda was smaller than that of UML chair and PM KP Sharma Oli, and acronym – Ma. Ke., the Nepali form of MC (Maoist Centre), was informal and sounded a teasing word.
Moreover, it carried small images of three communist leaders – Pushpa Lal, Manamohan Adhikary and Madan Bhandari. The Maoist cadres might not have objected to Pushpa Lal’s picture as he was the founding general secretary of CPN. But Adhikary and Bhandari are not in good book of Maoist Centre from the ideological point of view. The banner apparently showed the UML dominating the MC at large. These appear to be technical mistakes of the UML that prepared the banner in haste without considering the sentiments of the Maoist cadres.
The other day Oli termed the Maoist cadres’ objection to the banner as ‘childish behaviour’ and stressed on persuading them about the importance of Pushpa Lal, Manamohan and Madan Bhandari in the nations’ left movement. Oli argued that Nepal’s communist movement will be incomplete if their names are removed from it. The banner scam hangs on to frustrate the speedy unification talks. On Friday evening, Oli and Prachanda sat to thrash out their differences to no avail. The banner scandal put other substantial topics in shadow. The two leaders failed to set a new date of unification. After missing 22 April, they have other two important days for the historical feat – May 1, the world workers’ day, and May 5, the birthday of Karl Marx. But the unification is not going to take place on these special days either.
Instead of chasing the auspicious days to announce the merger, the two parties have to overcome mistrust and create a win-win situation for long lasting unification. Nonetheless, the banner row exposed the UML’s superiority complex and MC’s inferiority one. Their imbalanced psychological posturing has complicated the unification process. The UML is for making electoral results as the basis for the composition of central committee of the unified party, an idea the MC dislikes. The UML and MC had shared the candidacy at 70:40 ratio in the two-tier elections but the people elected their candidates at 70:30 ratio. But the MC does not want the mathematics of poll results to decide their seat-sharing in the CC. It has demanded 50:50 share in the CC, which the UML outright turned down. Former rebels think the modality of merger, as proposed by the UM, eludes them respectable and equal position in the unified party. The MC is fearful of losing its identity if it unites without taking a due share in the new party. It is as clear as day that Prachanda wants to secure his executive role in the unified party. Unless and until the UML guarantees this, the unification is unlikely to happen. To his dismay, the UML stalwarts have clearly said that their party is unable to give a written commitment to Prachanda that he will be the chairman of the unified party from its convention.
If the two parties get stuck in the mathematical game, the unification process will be seriously hampered. The two parties need to rise above their partisan interest and devote themselves to win the hearts of cadres to ensure that they have a sense of ownership of party following the merger. Emotional unity is more important than the distribution of CC seats among the aspirants. Indeed, it is a Sisyphean task given that the two parties represent opposite streams of communist movement. One has championed the politics of peace and compromise while another rose to the scene through insurgency and violent campaign. Thus, the unification of two parties is not a cakewalk.
The much-talked about unification bid looks like something between the devil and the deep blue sea for both the parties. They are unlikely to escape from it. The unity has become inevitable. At the same time, the unity must be equal and balance to the satisfaction of both sides. The two left parties had clinched a thumping victory in the election after they promised to the people that they would be unified for the common cause of the nation. They will fall from grace if the unification bid ends in a fiasco. Both the parties do not want to take the blame of possible unity debacle. Moreover, the country’s’ stability and prosperity largely hinges on the unity of the two big left parties. The failure costs a heavy price – it will destroy the agenda of ushering the nation into an era of prosperity as well as betray the faith of electorates who voted the Left Alliance to power to deliver stability and lasting peace in the country.