Speed-breakers to Unification of Nepali Communism

Sankar Ray

Signs of discord over merger of Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) are surfacing, although the manifestation is not yet firm. Speed-breakers in the way are from the section in the CPN (MC) led by Mohan Baidya whose opposition to the party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal a k a ‘Prachanda’ remains intact. Two important functionaries Gopal Kirati and Biswo Bhakta Dulal ‘Aahuti’ have questioned the reunification plan pointing out that the decision was not formalised at the party committees. Dulal is in consultations with leaders cautioning them of chances of sabotage of communist movement in the Himalayan state. “Our discussion for a new movement has taken momentum” -he said.

The possibility of amalgamation before the formation of federal government, following the adoption of new Constitution (Nepal-ko Sangvidhan) with the nod of the Second Constituent Assembly shrinks. The more the delay in the start-up of government, wider would be the cleavage. Chances of the planned merger between the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) concluding before the formation of the new government look slim as Nepal's two parties find it hard to strike the grand mean on the leadership and organisation of the new party. The deadlock lingers. The new government is expected to be operational after the conclusion of the national (provincial) assembly polls on February 7. 

Although the UML leaders have already offered a special portfolio, the second highest position in the party structure for Dahal, the later has spurned the proposal. The Maoist biggies stressing the urgency for finalising the issues of merger and power-sharing simultaneously. While the Maoist Center insists on 'a framework agreement' on the planned unity as a must, the UML wants to resume negotiation on the merger only after resolving differences over other contentious issues such as the sharing of power in the provincial governments. "Completing the unification process before the government formation would be in line with the spirit of the public mandate and our joint manifesto”, -asserted Dahal, publicly at Chitwan last week. A UML standing committee member and a close confidant of Oli shot back, stating that UML reluctant  to share the leadership of the unified party. "It won't happen. As the entire party rank and file is against it, even if our chairman agrees to it. It would be a political suicide if Oli agrees to rotate the party chairmanship between him and Dahal", he observed. 

The influence of Maoists is on the wane vis-à-vis UML, but the leaders, next in line to Prachanda, keep bargaining. Maoist Center leader Mahendra Bahadur Shahi, for instance, has bluntly stated that there would be no merger if Oli refuses to rotate party chairmanship with Dahal. In other words, it’s more of a sharing syndrome than unification.

Leaders, assigned to negotiate on the merger modalities are working hard on the power-sharing deal for six provinces where the Left is set to form the government. Despite rounds of formal and informal negotiation at various levels, the two parties are still asunder on leadership, organisation and ideology of the merged entity and choice of brass and other key portfolios. Dahal has publicly staked claim to the premiership leaving the party chairmanship to UML chief Khadga Prasad Oli. Discussion is on about rotating the government leadership, a proposal from the MC.

 How to manage the second rung leaders is another hard nut to crack as they had been mutually inimical. Barring a clear second-in-command, party functioning may be in jeopardy although they agree to seal a deal on organisation between UML and Maoist Center with 60:40 sharing from the lower committee to the higher stratum. However, they have broadly no problem of providing space to the ideology of Maoism and Marxism.

On the electoral promise of a clear shift from the existing neo-liberal model, the political thinker, Ghanashyam Bhusal, the UML deputy general secretary, and one of the key negotiators who made the left alliance possible, said - “We charted the goal of the national development with our common manifesto. We have expressed that commitment to people time and again. We have no liberty to deviate from this agenda.” He has made it clear that the new government has to maintain good neighbourly relations with India that has a 1700-km open border with India. Whereas, most of the top guys of both the parties are in favour of  comparatively distancing from New Delhi to woo Beijing. Poignantly, Director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, Zhao Gancheng, told South China Morning Post that although China was happy with the poll outcome, it has limitations in building greater proximity towards Nepal which “is far from being China’s ally, and China’s influence remains limited compared to India’s.” But, China, he added, attaches great importance to Nepal as a neighbour sharing a long border.

The new charter comprises 35 parts, 308 Articles and nine Schedules – by far the best democratic system with a genuinely proportional representation.  The 240-word preamble vows to end “all forms of discrimination and oppression created by the feudalistic, autocratic, centralised, unitary system of governance” as also protection and promotion of “social and cultural solidarity, tolerance and harmony, and unity in diversity by recognizing the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-cultural and diverse regional characteristics”. It aims at building of “an egalitarian society founded on the proportional inclusive and participatory principles in order to ensure economic equality, prosperity and social justice, by eliminating discrimination based on class, caste, region, language, religion and gender and all forms of caste- based untouchability” alongside a firm commitment to “socialism based on democratic norms and values including the people's competitive multiparty democratic system of governance, civil liberties, fundamental rights, human rights, adult franchise, periodic elections, full freedom of the press”. The theoretical promise is congenial to a communist construction of backward and penury-dwarfed Nepalese socio-economics.

Feb 05, 2018

Sankar Ray [email protected]

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