13-19 December 2013 #685

Dahal’s political harakiri

Pushpa Kamal Dahal is digging a big hole for himself by rejecting the election outcome
Muma Ram Khanal
It has been two weeks since my last fortnightly column in this paper in which I pointed out the political immaturity of the UCPN (M) and its need to snap out of it. There is nothing new to report on that score, the party is still in deep denial.

The Maoists stubbornly refuse to concede defeat and to take moral responsibility for the poor showing. This individualist decision is intended to keep Pushpa Kamal Dahal immune from taking responsibility for the setback and the threat to boycott the CA is an effort to distract attention from having to resign as party head. Other defeated Maoist leaders have also joined in the bandwagon and are accusing the Army, the Election Commission, and even India of rigging the polls and alleging dark conspiracies. A majority of the top leaders have not yet dared to defy the erroneous decision of the party for fear of exclusion from the list of seats for proportional representation. Only a few leaders, who had not actively engaged in elections and not enlisted for the proportional quotas, have been resisting the series of wrong decisions of the party leadership.

To cover up for his party’s defeat, Dahal constituted a probe committee, but who did he get to lead it? Barshaman Pun, a longtime loyalist who himself suffered a humiliating defeat in the direct election. This was obviously not going to be a credible investigation, it would just endorse whatever Dahal has decided as his next course of action.

As expected, Pun’s probe commission simply seconded Dahal’s allegations of an election that was “institutionally, structurally, and methodically” rigged. The whole idea is for Dahal to blame anyone but himself for his party’s election debacle. However, no one really believed the Pun commission, so the UCPN (M) is now demanding an independent commission to investigate alleged cheating in the polls.

It is obvious to everyone what Dahal is doing and what is surprising is that the chairman doesn’t realise that people see through his strategy of diverting attention from his party’s dismal performance under his leadership. Dahal knows all too well that the clamour could grow for his resignation and to take responsibility for his failure of leadership. There is a precedent here, when the UML lost in the 2008 election, Madhav Kumar Nepal took responsibility and stepped down. Dahal can’t afford to do that since it would mean his nemesis, Baburam Bhattarai, would then become more powerful than him.

The Constituent Assembly has a court designed specifically to investigate allegations of cheating by parties who have evidence of serious irregularities. And if the parties are still not satisfied, a commission can be formed to look into all matters relating to the CA election. It is surprising that without exhausting all these options, the UCPN (M) has decided to stall the entire proceedings of the Constituent Assembly. This is cynical, irresponsible, and outrageous. It shows that the Maoists are still not comfortable with the democratic way of doing things.

The latest is that the Maoists have threatened not to send in the list of PR candidates to the Election Commission until an independent commission is set up to probe poll irregularities. Moreover, it has initiated talks with other regional and ethnic parties who also fared badly in polls to form a political front. If the UCPN (M) commits more follies like these it risks being further marginalised.

The best course of action for Dahal & Co would be to graciously accept the party’s defeat, analyse the reasons why it happened, correct those mistakes in the future through parliament and the constitution-writing process. After all, just like there are no permanent enemies in a democracy, there is no such thing as political harakiri. Leaders can always live to win another day.

Muma Ram Khanal was a central member of the Maoist party during the conflict. His column, Inside Out, appears fortnightly in Nepali Times.

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