By P. Kharel
Known for having made a reputation of saying one thing and doing something else, Maoist Centre’s chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal the other week lamented the losses his party suffered in the first two of the three-phase local elections. His party just about managed to take the third spot, but a distant third at that, behind CPN (UML) and Nepali Congress.
The last elections for the jumbo-size Constituent Assembly saw a drastic fall for the mighty Maoists’ strength as compared to the first Constituent Assembly. Rowdy activity of its youth wing and other sister organisations ate into the support base witnessed previously. People were fed up with the luxurious lifestyle of the leaders of a party that claimed to work for the “poor and downtrodden”.
By the time the two phases of local elections were completed and the results out, not only the Maoist Centre but the entire nation noted the drastic erosion in support for the party that had claimed credit for bringing about “historic changes”.
Dahal, who has an obsession with being called “Prachanda”, has numerous things which he could only hope for during his days in the decade-long brutal “People’s War” or even earlier when he worked for the United States’ aid wing, USAID.
PARTY SHRIKAGE: Addressing his party members, Dahal attributed his party’s “shrinkage” to the organisation having turned “anti-social by boycotting social activity, religious functions and refusing to even join mourners in various constituencies. He regretted that his party did not go to the grassroots to regularly mingle with people. “So why should people vote for our party?” he said bitterly. “Our members did not join social functions like bratabandha and weddings; they did not even express condolence to mourners in their neighbourhood,” he rued.
Dahal, who donned the mantle of prime minister on two brief occasions in as many years without making any impressive decisions or creating the much-needed connectivity with “all Nepalis”, is reduced to being a mere “has-been” premier.
Even in confession, Dahal fought shy of coming out all clean. He skirted the issue of ditching fellow the coalition government led by UML leader K.P. Oli, which drummed up large scale public support for the manner in which it withstood the trying times created by the trade blockade fronted by Nepali parties but transparently inspired by New Delhi. His whole focus was one becoming prime minister again after the fiasco his previous short-lived innings. The fielding of his daughter Renu in the Mayoral electoral race in Chitwan spoke of how self-centred leaders can be.
Maoists today are paying the price for the tactics they employed when they seemed to ride the crest of popularity in the first elections. They were their own enemies. The fear their rank and file generated and the impunity with which they circulated made a mockery of the very “loktantra” they so tirelessly invoked in their rhetoric.
Baburam Bhattarai’s spouse Hisila Yami is a case in point. She won the first elections from a Kathmandu constituency after the 2006 political changes, only to be thrashed in the next. Yami was deadly against “beauty contests”, whereas even diehard gender activists did not advocate against organising such display of “anti-gender activity” treating women as sex symbols. Come the next elections, Yami was silenced by proven lack of voter support. She has remained silent over the numerous beauty contests for all ages and groups these days.
Another factor in the dip in Maoist Centre’s credibility is the several splits in the party. In the years since 1990, the Nepali Congress has split, so has the UML. RPP’s inception itself was the result of a split. Madhesh-based parties have overtaken RPP on this score. Maoists joined the political mainstream a decade ago creating considerable curiosity, but they proved no different from the parties that had all along been in the mainstream, often in the seat of power.
POWER POLITICS: The so-called decade-long “People’s War” to end all movements did not bear the results made by the euphoric promises in 2006. Democracy does not deny dissent. Such blatant cravings for power have reduced the prevailing party culture to a running public commentary on perfidious political practices not witnessed at the national level in this part of the world for at least the past quarter century.
Aversion to hasty conclusions among most people is a factor against Dahal’s party. People are wiser than political leaders credit them with. They may be swayed once or even twice but not for ever. Even in countries where democratic practices are rated high, people get tired of any government in power for the third consecutive time.
In Nepal, leaders return to power repeatedly even when they more often than not prove to be corrupt and incompetent. At least, the wealth they accumulate and lifestyle they adopt betray the wide gap between what they say and what they actually do.
Dahal and his ilk should note that large sections of the Nepali society are not happy with the “achievements” of 2006 changes he claims credit for. People are deeply disenchanted. What next?
In Despair, Dahal Confesses
By P. Kharel