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Nepal: Disruptive Alliances

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By S. Binodkumar Singh
Research Associate, Institute for Conflict Management

On June 28, 2014, five main Maoist parties of Nepal, including the Pushpa Kama Dahal aka Prachanda-led Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M), the Mohan Baidya aka Kiran-led Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist-Baidya), the Matriya Yadav-led CPN-Maoist (CPN--Maoist-Matriya), the Mani Thapa-led Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) and Pari Thapa-led CPN-Unified (CPN-U), at a special function at Buddha Nagar in the national capital, Kathmandu ,signed an agreement to constitute an alliance. Addressing the function, Prachanda observed that the alliance was formed “with an aim of unification among the communist parties”.

Addressing the same function, Mohan Baidya, however, qualified that unification with the UCPN-M would be possible only after it agreed to the six-point proposal floated by CPN-Maoist-Baidya's politburo on June 14, 2012. The proposal included accepting Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as the key ideology; accepting Peoples' Revolution as the party's working procedure; rejecting the parliamentary system; use of force for transformation of the revolution; correcting past political aberrations; and an organization based on the central principle of the peoples' revolution.

Indeed, on February 2, 2014, the CPN-Maoist-Baidya at its politburo meeting had concluded that unity with the UCPN-M was still possible if the latter showed willingness to “correct” its political line of peace and the statute adopted through the Hetauda Convention of February 2013, which incorporated theoretical principles that mandated the governance of the party with a focus on participatory democracy, shunning the military structure that the party had earlier embraced. Baidya had asserted, “We are ready to bring a proposal for party unification if they [UCPN-M] stand ready to correct their present political line. They must think over this critical situation. If they show readiness to correct themselves, unification is possible any time.”  Since the split, which took place on June 19, 2012, the Baidya-led CPN-Maoist-Baidya has mostly remained outside the political mainstream and had boycotted elections for the second  Constituent Assembly (CA), held on November 19, 2013. Despite the stridency of is political positions, it had, more or less, been pushed into political oblivion.

The Prachanda-led UCPN-M, however, has also suffered a humiliating defeat in the CA elections, winning just 80 seats in the 601-member Assembly, and was relegated to third position in the CA. Significantly, it was the largest party in the first CA, winning 229 out of the 601 seats in the elections held on April 10, 2008. Recognizing that factionalism and a progressive splintering of the party was part of the cause of the electoral reverses, Dahal had, on many occasions in the past, called for reunification with the Baidya group.

Significantly, commemorating the 19th ‘People’s War’ Day on February 13, 2014, Dahal, recalled the party's humiliating loss in the CA elections and observed, “We won when we were united and lost after the split. This shows the necessity of unification between revolutionary forces, wherever they are. It’s time to listen to the heartbeat of the people who are repeatedly urging party unification”. Speaking at a separate function, on the same day, Baidya, reiterated that the “party was moving ahead successfully towards its aims when it was united”.

On March 13, 2014, a joint statement signed by Dahal and Baidya, observed that the Government was arresting their leaders and cadres in connection with war-era cases. Both the parties urged that all war-era cases should be dealt through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), as the present sequence of arrests was against the spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). Such cases were not to be dealt with in a piecemeal manner, through regular court proceedings, the joint statement observed.

It was against this backdrop that the five parties agreed, on June 26, 2014, to form a Working Alliance Committee (WAC), comprising of the chiefs of the parties, to work together on a common agenda, though the unification of the parties led by Prachanda and Baidya remained elusive. The June 28, 2014, agreement to constitute an alliance was the outcome of this process.

As expected, soon after the alliance was formed, these parties started talking of agitational politics. In a meeting of the WAC held in Kathmandu on June 30, 2014, during an extensive interaction on the subject of federalism, the constituent parties expressed their readiness to hit the streets to press the Government to incorporate their agenda in the constitution being drafted.

Compounding the issue further, on July 11, 2014, UCPN-M and six Madhesi parties - including the Madhesi Peoples’ Rights Forum-Democratic (MPRF-D), Madhesi People's Rights Forum-Nepal (MPRF-Nepal), Tarai Madhes Democratic Party (TMDP), Federal Socialist Party-Nepal (FSP-Nepal), Sadbhavana Party (SP) and Tarai Madhesh Sadbhavana Party (TMSP) - formed an alliance, the Federal Republican Front (FRF), to push for their demand of identity-based federalism. The purpose of the alliance was purportedly to press the big parties - Nepali Congress (NC) and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) - to embrace 'the people’s aspirations for change'. 

Conspicuously, after forging two separate alliances - one with the Maoist factions and another with the Madhesh-based political parties - the UCPN-M is now mulling an interventionist role in national politics. A standing committee meeting of the party held on June 29, 2014, discussed possible protest programmes to be launched inside and outside Parliament. Party Secretary Giriraj Mani Pokharel thus observed, "We have realized that we need to play interventionary role in national politics, so we are working out our future course of action."

The newly formed alliances, however, remain edgy. For instance, though the UCPN-M and the CPN-Maoist-Baidya have formed the WAC along with three other parties, unification remains elusive, despite overtures. On fundamentals, the two parties remain irreconcilable, and, expressing doubts whether the UCPN-M was serious about party unification, CPN-Maoist-Baidya Secretary Dev Gurung, on June 19, 2014, noted, “Though they are talking about party unification, it just looks like propaganda, as they have not done any homework with regards to our six-point condition.”

The FRF is also far from a settled alliance. On July 3, 2014, the Madhes-based parties expressed dissatisfaction with the changing stance of UCPN-M leaders regarding the number of federal states to be carved out in the country. Expressing their ire over the statement of UCPN-M leader Baburam Bhattarai who had reportedly said the 11 states model could be the starting point for federalism, Rajendra Shrestha, General Secretary of FSP-Nepal declared, “Madhes-based parties had rejected the 11-state model since long and were for the 10 or 14 states model. If Maoists support NC and CPN-UML’s agenda later, why should we join hands now?”

The conflict within the UCPN-M is, further, far from over. Leaders of the Dahal faction and the Baburam Bhattarai faction, during a five-hour discussion on July 7, 2014, talked about patching up existing differences on ideology, 'scientific organizational setting' and the focus on drafting a progressive constitution. Bhattarai, however, remained reluctant and urged Dahal to come up with a model of the party’s 'revolution for socialism' and ways to manage the organisation in accordance with the party line.

CPN-UML, moreover, has expressed the apprehension that the new alliances could drag the UCPN-M, the third largest party in the CA, out of the constitution drafting process. CPN-UML Chief of Publicity Department, Pradeep Gywali, on June 29, 2014, commented, “Before forging an alliance, the UCPN-M should have sought commitment from the four parties on the promulgation of a new constitution. As a signatory of CPA, Dahal should assure publicly that he is committed to the peace and constitution drafting process. Otherwise, there will always be skepticism about his commitment to the constitution.” Earlier, on June 17, 2014, NC Vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel blamed Maoist and 'totalitarian forces' for creating problems in the country and asserted that all types of political dead locks were created by these elements.

Significantly, NC and CPN-UML are the ruling alliance and are in the process of resolving all outstanding issues in drafting of the Constitution. On June 30, 2014, CA Speaker Subash Nembang, also the chairman of the CA, disclosed that the task of writing the draft of a new constitution had begun, and a new Constitution would be produced by January 22, 2015. Indeed, the Constitutional-Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee of the CA, on July 15, 2014, began discussions on issues of state restructuring, one of the most contentious problems. 

So far, the second CA has sought to project the idea that a consensus among major political parties is now within reach, and that the Legislature-Parliament is moving in the right direction on the constitution-drafting process. The new opportunistic alliances forged by the UCPN-M, though far from creating cohesive unit, do put this process at some risk in their influence the process. Their attempt to bypass the people’s representatives, set up through a popular vote, to take their fractious politics back into the streets. This has the potential, once again, to jeopardize the constitution-making process and push the country into a protracted and avoidable deadlock.

[Source: SATP]

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