The Maoist leadership, under pressure from a hardline faction, has decided party unity is more important than the November elections and may opt for an intensified pro-republic movement in the next months.
Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been heavily censured at the fifth session of the Maoist extended central committee this week in Kathmandu for failing to stand up to the NC and not taking a firmer stand on republic. Dahal has compromised with dissidents by agreeing to insist on the declaration of republic as a precondition to elections.
The Maoists have concluded they will not perform very well in elections, and may have decided their best bet is to put impossible preconditions for polls just to keep the party together. Says political science professor Krishna Khanal: Party unity is important for them.
Unable to withstand the pressure of hardliners and with just 100 days to go for polls, the Maoist meeting is preoccupied with the possibility of an election defeat. A UML forecast, which many find credible, shows the Maoists may get just 10 percent of the seats in the first-past-the-post part of the election.
There is growing frustration within the party with the democratic experiment, admits ex-guerrilla commander Janardan Sharma (Prabhakar) who is in the dissident faction, time has come to develop a new policy.
Another central committee member, Netra Bikram Chand (Biplab) echoes the views of Maoists living in harsh conditions in camps: The peace process has achieved little, yet our leadership is wallowing in luxury and comfort.
Sharma, Chand and radicals lead by Mohan Baidya feel the peace process is flawed, it has weakened the Maoists and the gains of the revolution squandered. The party leadership is finding it hard to convince them to be patient at least till elections.
A large section of the Maoists cadre believe that they have been betrayed by the other parties, explains analyst Shyam Shrestha, and both factions of the Maoists know their support base in the population has been eroded.
Even if the rift is not as serious as some make it out to be, the Maoists may come out of their meeting next week with a hardline approach. The irony is that an avowed republican party is converging with the monarchy which doesn\'t want polls either.
Barsha Man Pun (Ananta) who belongs to the pragmatic section of the Maoist leadership says his party is totally committed to the polls. We want elections, that is what we fought for. But we are launching a movement for republic and proportional electoral system in our campaigning.
John Narayan Parajuli
. Beyond tokenism