BY P. KHAREL
With the unification of two major communist parties into Nepal Communist Party on May 17, Nepali politics will not be the same. Fear and desperation in the non-communist quarters could find non-leftist groups compelled to attempt at a political polarisation of new equation to check the communist forces and improve their electoral prospects five hears hence.
For Nepali Congress, which so often gloats over it having “led all the successful democratic movements”, the May 17 unification between CPN (UML) and Maoist Centre, could not have come at a worse time. Even without coalition with any major group, CPN (UML) had performed impressively in last year’s local elections whereas the NC-MC electoral adjustment did not bear the expected outcome.
BIZARRE: Quick to realise the disaster ahead, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and his MC decided to join hands with the main opposition (CPN) UML, led by K.P. Oli, in preparation of the subsequent general elections in the second half of the year. In a bizarre political move whereby the MC remained in the coalition government headed by NC’s chief Sher Bahadur Deuba, Dahal’s party jointly campaigned for the CPN (UML)-MC candidates.
Much to NC’s chagrin, Maoist leaders were rubbing shoulders with CPN (UML) counterparts but refused to leave the Deuba cabinet. In dismay and desperation, Deuba deprived the Maoists in his cabinet of any ministerial portfolio. The eventual poll results were scintillating for the two communist parties while NC recorded its worst ever electoral defeat, triggering an avalanche of criticism against the party head.
With CPN (UML)’s 121 members of parliament and MC’s 53 seats, NCP now has a total of 174 MPs, which is short of 10 seats for an outright two-thirds majority. NCP also heads 403 out of 753 local bodies while the chiefs of six of the provinces are its members.
According to an agreement reached between Oli and Dahal on unification eve, NCP will have 45 members on its Steering Committee, 441 on Central Committee and nine members constitute the Central Secretariat. Oli and Dahal will rotate as party president until the organisation’s general meeting for new leadership is held within two years.
STRONG STIR: The newly formed Nepal Communist Party will have to orient the comrades coming from the MC to appreciate the value of moderation. For a party formed in 1949 but banned in 1954 until the ban was lifted in 1955, NCP has had a checkered history. But the post-1990 period has been one of scintillating ascendancy.
On the other hand, a pall of gloom sets on NC. Given that NC leadership and its faction had attributed the communists’ success to their poll pact, the situation for it now looks graver because after the emergence of NCP as a single party combining the constituents that had earlier functioned as independent parties.
NCP will have to confront its own election pledges for making them good amid the main opposition’s charges that it reeks of authoritarianism. In terms of popular votes, NC still has a base to reckon with. But the emergence of the unified NCP could leave the main opposition even weaker, what with daily criticism of Deuba and his working style.
On the eve of parliamentary elections in autumn, NC managed to form a “Loktantrik Alliance” that also included the Kamal Thapa-led Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Pashupati Shumsher Rana’s Democratic RPP. Earlier reviled as former panchas who were the pillars of the partyless Panchayat, the two RPP groups had some consolation in being formally recognised as full-fledged democratic organisations.
However, both the RPPs together with the Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohani-led RPP Nationalist fared badly. Thapa’s party has a lone seat in parliament with the other two groups drawing blank. If it is of any consolation, NC, which often describes itself as having “led all successful democratic movements” in the country since seven decades, too recorded a dismal performance.
LITTLE DIFFERENCE: The communists in Nepal are not much different from other parties, except for their organisational style and use of rhetoric. They swear by political pluralism and accept World Bank’s recommendations as faithfully as do other parties as a prescription for prosperity. In fact, if multiparty mechanism alone were the benchmark, NCP can be termed the most democratic communist party in the world history.
Communist party rule in Nepal also underscores the reluctance to condemn that one-party communist dictatorship anywhere in the world. If Nepalis did not find themselves “happy” and “prosperous” in the net five years of “stable government”, as promised by NCP leaders, the popular tide could shift gear and direction against NCP.
As for NC and RPPs in particular, it would be surprising if they did not coordinate their activity as opposition groups and look into their common areas of agreement as far as their key agendas are concerned. At a time when all three RPPs seem to be pressing for restoration of monarchy and Nepal being declared a Hindu state, sections in NC are already finding it increasingly difficult to ignore the Hindu state idea which, many believe, would be a prelude to restoration of constitutional monarchy.