Ritu Raj Subedi
Nepali communists enjoy huge support base among the public, but they have been unable to capitalise on it for socialist reconstruction that they have been advocating for decades. The communist leaders are the ones who are never tired of talking about unity and co-work but they are also the ones who are mostly engaged in mutual bickering and mud-slinging, resulting in the vertical splits of their parties. Ideological deviation, personal ego and factional infighting remain key factors behind the intra-party wrangling and eventual division. They are smart enough to conceal their erroneous acts and pretence under the theoretical garb. Misleading ideological exhortations are invoked to maintain the loyalty of cadres towards cult leadership, thereby instilling false consciousness in followers and depriving them of correct ideological tool.
Although the communist forces command near two-thirds majority in the federal parliament, they are now passing through awful times especially following the disintegration of CPN-UML and CPN- Maoist Centre more than a year ago. Former prime minister and CPN-UML chairman KP Sharma Oli dissolved the House of Representatives (HoR) twice in order to thwart a challenge to his authoritarian leadership within the then NCP. The House dissolution and disintegration of the NCP through a ruling of Supreme Court did not only lead to the downfall of the Oli government but also cast a pall on the bright prospect of broader left unity. The NCP has already broken into three factions - the UML, Maoist Centre and CPN-Unified Socialist. In the hindsight, it can be said that unification of two largest communist parties was artificial, with top leadership devoid of clear ideological, organisational and programmatic vision.
The Left Alliance comprising the UML and CPN-Maoist Centre had pulled off a sensational victory in the provincial and federal election in 2017. But the NCP has failed to respect the people’s verdict. Five years after the first three-tier polls held as per the new constitution, the country has again entered the election cycle that will test their popularity in the masses. But this time the communist parties are unlikely to repeat previous electoral feat. The five-party ruling coalition that includes Nepali Congress (NC), Maoist Centre, Unified Socialist, Janata Samajbadi Party and Rastriya Janamorcha is set to forge alliance against the UML in three-tier polls. With the division of communist forces, NC seems to hit the jackpot while the UML is likely to lose many seats.
Amidst the growing hostility between the major communist parties, UML leader Ghanshyam Bhusal has again floated the idea of unity among the UML, Maoist Centre and Unified Socialist ahead of the elections. He warned that communists are destined to suffer devastation if they fail to forge unity in the polls. But he has become a butt of satire and mockery for his proposal. Oli termed him ‘so-called intellectual,’ accusing him of disappointing the cadres and fanning illusion against the UML by proposing the unity among the parties. Oli even claimed that his party would win 60 per cent of the seats alone in the local bodies.
On the other hand, Unified Socialist chair Madhav Kumar Nepal has said that Oli has himself positioned as an obstacle to the left unity. He has opted for giving continuity to the current alliance till the three-tier polls instead of the left unity. The relations between the breakaway Unified Socialist and the UML are so antagonistic that the latter is not ready to accept the existence of the former. The ties between the Maoist Centre and UML have also gone sour. Sometime back, Maoist Centre chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda had called for dealing a further blow to ‘villain’ in the polls without mentioning Oli's name. It sounds a fanciful move to forward the unity proposal at a time when the Reds are in a rancorous mood.
Bhusal, who lost election for the post of vice chair in the UML’s 10th convention, has been rendered role-less in the party as he does not belong to the Oli camp. By launching the debate on the left unity, Bhusal seems to stay afloat in Nepali politics as an ideological leader. There is no reason to disagree on his proposal of broader left unity but the arguments he is offering for this are not convincing. He has suggested forgetting the House dissolution since the Constitutional Bench of Supreme Court has already resolved this issue by reinstating the parliament. He has concluded that they should not blow it up disproportionately. Neither can they move ahead by defending the dissolution, he says.
But this line of argument can hardly be well received by the UML leadership. Party chair Oli and general secretary Shankar Pokharel have been publicly defending the House dissolution. The dissolution of communist-majority parliament was the biggest blunder committed by a powerful communist government. It can neither be forgiven nor forgotten because it has ruined the chance of gaining robust stability and implementing the provisions of welfare state envisioned by the new constitution. Until and unless Oli admits that his move to dissolve the House was a mistake, there is slim possibility of giving a momentum to the unity proposal.
Bhusal has claimed that the UML is the mainstream of left movement so it should take initiative and leadership for the unity. But Oli has already dismissed his proposal much to his despair. Bhusal has gone on to argue that there are no any ideological and theoretical bases behind the division between the UML and Unified Socialist. Since the UML, Unified Socialist and Maoist Centre do not have separate theoretical programme, their alliance and unity is indispensable, he insists. It is true these three parties share similar ideological position but their enmity is so deep that the unity talks among them are utterly hypothetical that can hardly be realised at the moment.
(The author is Deputy Executive Editor of this daily)