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The fractured alliance

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Om Astha Rai

The opposition alliance’s call for a three-day general strike – and the decision to call it off after the first day itself – has demonstrated how fractured it is within.

For the UCPN (Maoist) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who leads the opposition alliance of 31 political parties, it was never easy to maintain balance between the hard-liners and the soft-liners. The alliance, which brought together some political parties that once bayed for each other’s blood, was unnatural and its split was only a matter time.

After the Constituent Assembly (CA) Chair Subhas Nembang initiated a vote on the disputed issues of the new constitution, distance between the Upendra Yadav-led hard-liners and the Bijaya Gachhdar-led soft-liners grew.  The Yadav faction wanted a violent agitation while the Gachhadar group was more inclined to negotiations.

Dahal somehow kept the alliance intact by adopting a two-pronged strategy: continuing with street protests while carrying out political negotiations. Not any longer. It now looks difficult for Dahal to save the alliance by doing what he always does: talking of talks with Gachhadar and showing audacity for agitation with Yadav.

Dahal’s flip-flop on what he warned would turn into an indefinite nationwide general strike was a hint that the alliance was divided.

Early this week, Dahal rejected Prime Minister Sushil Koirala’s request for the withdrawal of the strike. There were similar calls from all corners – through social networking sites and public appeals. Dahal, apparently under pressure from the hard-liners, looked determined not to call off the strike.

After the first day of strike, Dahal shocked his own allies by not only proposing the strike’s withdrawal but arguing how disastrous it could be for them. Madhesi and Janjati leaders objected to his proposal arguing the strike was necessary to put pressure on the ruling coalition. This time, he looked equally determined to withdraw the strike.

Political analyst Shyam Shrestha, who is now a UCPN lawmaker in the CA, supports Dahal’s decision to call off the strike.  “Neither our party nor the country would have benefitted from the strike,” he says. “Instead of increasing our strength in political negotiations, it would have only antagonised people against us.”

All opposition alliance leaders do not think the same way. A Janjati leader, whose party is an opposition alliance member, said: “The ruling party leaders, particularly the UML Chair KP Oli, had long been trying to persuade Dahal to abandon Madhesi and Janjati leaders. I think they have succeeded this time.”

Yadav, the MJF (Nepal) leader, has issued a press statement, saying the withdrawal of the strike was an act of betrayal by Dahal. He says nothing but only a violent agitation like the Madhes Movement-2007 could force the NC-UML to agree on their demand of ethnic identity based federalism.

Kumar Lingden, whose Limbuwan party is also an opposition alliance member, expressed his disbelief at the withdrawal of the strike by issuing a press statement. He expressed his anger against Dahal’s decision by calling a half-day strike in Jhapa on Wednesday as well, demanding the release of his cadres arrested earlier.

“We are not satisfied by Dahal’s logic for the withdrawal of the strike,” he says. “If he can’t explain why the strike was called off, we will quit the alliance. Only the Maoist and Gachhadar will be left there.”



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