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What’s leaving Left unity behind?

BY MAILA BAJE
From the way things are going, it sure does look like ethereal elements are trying to prevent the unification of our United Marxist-Leninist (UML) and Maoist factions into that single imposing communist party.
Unity looked like a done deal before last year’s landmark elections. Nepali voters were so impressed by the idea that they preemptively endorsed the effort.
There was some logic there. If Nepal was to proceed irreversibly along the lines of republicanism, secularism and federalism, why not let its organic advocates lead the way? The Maoists articulated the three-pronged agenda most effectively and almost singlehandedly achieved it. After they grew out of their obsession with emulating the Great Helmsman all the way to state capture, a turning point was inevitable.
The Marxist-Leninists, for their part, had given only qualified support to the 1990 Constitution. But they had not given up on people’s multiparty democracy. Moreover, that notion had a more benign ring to it than, say, people’s war. If the new order provided such fertile ground for both, why bother why the once-bitter rivals really decided to join hands.
Alas, if only logic dictated Nepali politics. Today, both sides insist that the Baisakh 9 deadline was never written in stone. Leaders of both parties certainly didn’t sound tentative when they were touting the date till the very end. More seriously, though, they are shifting the goalposts. While senior leaders are giving the impression that they are merely ironing out minor details, their surrogates point to something more pernicious afoot.
UML leader Keshav Badal put things quite vividly the other day. “Opponents of unity are importuning Goddess Dakshinkali, ready with their sacrificial black goat.” But all Badal could do after that was to assure us that unity was unavoidable. Critics of both parties such as Mohan Bikram Singh, too, see a web of national and international conspiracies.
Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, facing the most serious challenge to his leadership, has begun warning of the emergence of a new totalitarianism. Far from a shriek of desperation, Deuba’s warning sounds like a full-fledged rallying cry. If the Nepali Congress is good at anything, it is at fighting totalitarianism (as long as it’s not within the organization).
In the wider neighborhood, the Indians believe they embraced Prime Minister K.P. Oli tightly enough to have adequately tamed him. The Chinese must be having much more than passing interest in what actually might have transpired between Oli and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their one-on-one session.
How successful was Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali in assuring Beijing of Kathmandu’s continuing commitment to its northern engagement? That would depend on how soon Oli ends up visiting China. If early reports trickling out of the Chinese capital are to be believed, Beijing has told us that henceforth it would take into consideration New Delhi’s sensitivities before making investment decisions in Nepal.
The impact of the Modi-Xi Jinping talks in Wuhan will no doubt play out here with its own ebullient rationality. If Oli happens to find himself playing host to Modi in Kathmandu before any northern sojourn, well, that’s for then.
For now, official Beijing has reverted to praising the virtues of trilateral cooperation, while the Indians still can’t stop thinking out aloud how they can beat China in Nepal. Maybe they’ve figured out one way.

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