By Maila Baje
Our brand-new Nepal Communist Party (NCP) has come with a shelf life of five years, if you believe Dr. Baburam Bhattarai.
The former Maoist chief ideologue, ever since ditching the once-imposing party to form his Naya Shakti, has kept his ideological fealty very close to his chest. He may not have formally renounced his commitment to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the Great Helmsman’s prototype. But he hasn’t been terribly excited about the idea lately, either.
Dr. Bhattarai’s Naya Shakti encompasses all of the nebulousness of the new Nepal he so arduously pushed during the ‘people’s war’. Although the man triumphed in the last election, his party’s message seemed too muddled to attract enough people. In that sense, the individual is the institution.
A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Bhattarai revealed that he had become a communist because B.P. Koirala and the Nepali Congress veered dangerously close to the crown. If things were as simple as that, Dr. Bhattarai could easily have reversed course once B.P.’s brother, Girija Prasad Koirala, almost single-handedly abandoned the Nepali Congress’ founding ideological commitment to the monarchy. For all practical purposes, Dr. Bhattarai and his Maoist colleagues may have done that not too furtively through the peace process. Yet the Maoist tag was too tightly wrapped around them.
Dr. Bhattarai offers his five-year NCP prognosis against the backdrop of the perilous global scenario unfolding today. If the world’s young are increasingly attracted to socialism, they are also lured by right-wing populism. In this dichotomy, the ambiguity of Naya Shakti fits well just as ‘No Labels’ or ‘Third Way’ do elsewhere.
It also allows Dr. Bhattarai to put himself ahead of the curve and diagnose the ills traditional politicians have wrought on the rest of us, pretending he is not one of them. The internal contradictions of the NCP, he avers, have sown the seeds of the party’s demise. (Since the Nepali Congress is older than the communists, Dr. Bhattarai evidently sees no wisdom in setting a time-frame for its extinction.)
The notion of the NCP as a nonstarter conforms to what Dr. Bhattarai’s onetime Maoist colleague Chandra Prakash Gajurel recently said (and on which yours truly had ruminated elaborately last week).
Disparagement from two directions prompted NCP co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ to react. You can’t be a leader just because you want to, the former Maoist supremo stated. History and the people would dictate that. Dahal, to be sure, has been reassessing a lot of things in his life lately. But he doesn’t seem to be in a mood to tolerate erstwhile colleagues posing as challengers.
Let’s try not miss the broader picture. Although they have disappeared as a visibly viable organism, the various constituents of the Maoists are speaking from all directions and conveying all kinds of messages. Through republicanism, federalism, secularism, they have created their trinity against heavy odds. The price they paid – amalgamation with the parliamentary system they had also rebelled against – doesn’t seem that steep, considering how they have camouflaged it in pragmatism. Still, these people don’t sound like they relish their victory, do they?
By Maila Baje