Nepal at Deadly Crossroads

When it comes to parliament, they are not game. They said ‘farewell to arms’ too early only to see their strategy of compromise didn‘t work in such a short period. The political right in India and elsewhere has reasons to cheer about the complete rout of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) led by Prachanda in the recently held poll to choose 601 members to the Constituent Assembly that will draft a new constitution to end years of political turmoil and uncertainty. Also, the traditional left is not unhappy because of the demise of the Maoist sun in the Himalayan kingdom. What is more the far left in India too sees in the outcome of the all important national election which was fair even by South Asian standards, as per observation made by overseas observers, vindicates their critique of Maoist surrender at a time when they were militarily strong. After a prolonged people’s war against the Monarchy as also the undemocratic system the Maoists of Nepal under the leadership of uncharismatic Prachanda, decided to return to ‘normal’ life by abandoning jungle and ended what is known as the bloodiest civil war in Nepal’s history in 2006, to embrace parliamentary path once and for all, with a lot of media hype, both domestically and internationally.

In truth the united front that emerged in the wake of anti-monarchy struggle lost its relevance when the monarchy was abolished. For the Maoists it was still a tool to complete their brand of democratic revolution but they failed to keep it united. And the front comprising different political outfits representing diverse class interests soon degenerated into rival political contenders. Parliamentary culture in the South Asian context is big business. No functioning democracy in South Asia can do it without massive corruption and criminalisation of politics. In India, the biggest showcase of democracy, a sizeable number of elected representatives i.e. MPs are convicts or stand trial for heinous crimes. The Prachandas cannot enjoy parliamentary privileges without following the rules of the system that are very much against the interests of the people.

The fact is that the Prachanda brigade doesn’t make news these days for the simple reason that they are isolated both at home and abroad. The Maoist party that waged a heroic military campaign against the rulers of Kathmandu got splintered on ideological grounds because a vocal section of the Maoist movement, hardliners to be precise refused to reconcile themselves with the emerging parliamentary reality that was, in their opinion, not conducive to further new democratic ideals in Nepal. The middle roaders under Prachanda succeeded in keeping a semblance of unity among party functionaries. Their stunning victory in the first ever held general election in post-monarchy Nepal was a wrong signal to the conservative and so-called progressive forces of Nepal. International machinations emanating mainly from India, to destablise Nepal and marginalise the Maoists had always been there.

Maoists didn’t really abjured the path violence from a position of strength. No doubt faced with too many hurdles to continue guerilla warfare in a hostile terrain surrounded by reactionary forces, they were in search of an escape route for long. And anti-monarchy stir created an atmosphere in which their strategic retreat, rather surrender, made somewhat acceptable and honourable to the public eye because of tremendous state repression and all pervasive economic decline people were experiencing for quite some time. They laid down arms on conditional policies taken behind the curtain, perhaps beyond the border. The Prachandas looked tired and harried and they too decided not to return to the jungles and hills.

The oppressed of Nepal otherwise plagued by caste, religious orthodoxy and racial prejudices as it is the common disease in all South Asian countries, saw in the Maoists a ray of hope for the future generations but the Maoists’ ‘indecisive’ victory in parliamentary elections sowed the seeds of new challenges and set in motion new contradictions which Prachanda’s party failed to handle correctly while major old contradictions remained unresolved making multi-party democracy fragile and unstable. Notwithstanding their small stint in power, they failed to even partially dismantle old military bureaucracy which was the mainstay of the old order. The recent poll results also show that pro-monarchy forces have still strength to bite.

Nepal being a land-locked country is precariously dependent on India to keep its trade and commence moving. They were dependent on British India in the yester years, they are dependent on independent India, when the brown sahibs rule in New Delhi. It’s no secret that the Nepali Congress, the major political platform of the Nepali rich, has all along been maintaining organic links with Indian National Congress. That New Delhi would be glad to see their men in league with the Nepalese social-democrats winning the rat race, was not surprising. It was natural. What is unnatural is how Maoists under Prachanda have isolated themselves from masses in such a short time. Only 5 years ago they posed a serious threat to status quo-ism but now they are being threatened by all shades of anti-maoist forces. It’s a tragedy that after so much sacrifice in the long resistance movement they have nowhere else to go but parliament and that too with insignificant presence and little impact on the polity.

Things changed drastically when Prachanda was recognised as Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal in international diplomacy. He is now threatening to boycott the Constituent Assembly unless his grievances and requests are heard. But he cannot gain what he has lost—people’s confidence—by this tactical move. Testing defeat he is behaving more like Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, with the issuance of threat of joining the rebel camp, supposed to be regrouping in the jungles. For the people of Nepal the situation is again drifting towards chaos and instability if they fail to draft a constitution for all. 

Vol. 46, No. 22, Dec 8 - 14, 2013

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