By Maila Baje
Restiveness over the style and substance of the unification of Nepal’s two principal communist parties has begun to pervade the Maoist faction. The rank and file there seem to have woken up to what the rest of the country has grasped. This is not unification between two organizations in the customary sense of the term. It is a hostile takeover of the Maoist Center by the Marxist-Leninists.
Maoist Center chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ assiduously denies that differences pertaining to sharing of power and posts is impeding formal unity. The no-bridges-left-to-walk-back-on routine persists on both sides. But Dahal has also begun issuing thinly veiled auguries.
Just the other day, he said that he could embark on an entirely new course if he concluded that the current route was unlikely to take him to his destination. Never mind the elusiveness of Dahal’s destination. He’s never been one to etch one in stone. The forewarning alone should be enough to shake our body politic.
Countless one-on-one private sessions Dahal has held with Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist chairman K.P. Oli have only served to muddy the waters. Did the two leaders just spend time together in private over edibles and entertainment?
The Maoist base’s quandary is real. If Oli seems so unwilling to accommodate subgroups led by fellow UML ex-premiers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Jhal Nath Khanal, why should the former rebels believe he might be eager to bestow respectful positions on them? Oli’s fellow Jhapa headhunter of the 1970s, Radha Krishna Mainali, warned us the other day how the UML chief has a habit of pledging things on credit, so to speak. The Maoists should have every i dotted and t crossed in triplicate, he counsels.
A few days earlier Rastriya Prajatantra Party (Democratic) president Pashupati Shamsher Rana was emphatic that the two communist parties could never unite. Now, you’d think Rana should be the last person making such prognostications when he couldn’t foresee the divisions so close to home. But, then, such an enduring political player must have had his reasons for saying so.
Couple that with the fact that caretaker Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has begun showing a degree of decisiveness that he lacked during his more rightful tenures over the decades. The idea that the caretaker government is even preparing to nominate three members to the upper house cannot bode well for the incoming Oli government.
The broader picture isn’t too sanguine, either. Many of the same Indian newspapers that advocated the abolition of the Nepali monarchy as a matter of their national interest today headline the ex-king’s religious undertakings in Orissa in a way that suggests he still sits on the throne.
Perhaps it would still be unrealistic to expect either faction to clearly come out against unification, at least without enough credible ground to blame the other for the fiasco. But it’s looking likelier that Oli will head the largest party in a hung parliament with all the attendant hazards Nepalis are familiar with – and much more. That would certainly suit some around us. Domestically, politics will continue to be the art of deal-making. And not an altogether bad position to be in today’s Trumpian times.
Edginess, attitude and course correction
By Maila Baje