2-8 August 2013 #667

Revolution comes full circle

Until the contradiction within the Maoist party is resolved, Nepal’s peace process will not have closure
Muma Ram Khanal
The Maoist revolution is beginning to look like Kathmandu’s road-widening project. Just when you think it is over, they start digging up the roads again.

We all thought that there had been closure on the peace process after the integration of the 1,300 Maoist fighters into the Nepal Army in May. But the split in the Maoists has brought us back to a full circle again.?

The CPN-M started raking up old issues we thought were resolved as soon as the integration was officially completed. Unless the demands of the Dash Maoists are settled, elections held, and the constitution written and ratified, therefore, we will not be in a position to declare with certainty that the peace process is concluded.? Despite the lip service everyone is paying to elections, it is the two factions of the Maoist party that is most reluctant to face polls. The UCPN(M) says it is serious about elections and its leaders have fanned out across the country in campaign mode, but they are really just trying to gauge the pulse of the people.

After the symbolic destruction of a ballot box last week, the CPN-M is on a two-proinged strategy creating mayhem while talking. In a sense, the Dash poll sabotage campaign strategy complements the Cash Maoists who are reluctant to face voters in November. The NC and the UML benefit from the split Maoist vote, and are happy as long as they don’t get blamed for being against polls.

This is why the prospect of elections is up in the air no matter what the Regmi regime or the Election Commission may say. The antics of the two Maoist parties have confused voters, and made them even more apathetic about elections.

The end of the conflict left a lot of loose ends that were never tied. The period after 2006 saw non-transparent decision making by the Big Four that progressively made Nepal more dependent on the outside. The CA had to be dissolved because the promises and slogans to the marginalised and disenfranchised could not be kept, and fissures within the Maoist party erupted in the open.

The election tactics of both Maoists is to weaken each other. Mohan Baidya has vowed to sabotage elections, while Pushpa Kamal Dahal has announced that the YCL will be deployed to attack those who attack polling booths. Thge YCL is already on the rampage in Chitwan, presaging the strong-arm tactics of its campaign.

Outwardly, it looks like one is for and the other against elections. But internally, both are against. Both Maoists think they have sufficient support to defeat each other if they separately contest polls. So the UCPN(M) doesn’t want the CPN-M to take part. The CPN-M meanwhile wants elections postponed until it musters at least as much support as its rival. In a way, this rivalry is an extended playing out of the unfinished business of the conflict.

After the formation of non-political interim government led by a Chief Justice, the CPN-M tried to fill the role of the main opposition party, which to a certain extent it has succeeded in doing. This has allowed it to benefit from the anti-incumbent factor, and be the voice of those disillusioned with the status quo.

However, it would be a mistake to see only the CPN-M as the obstacle to elections even if it has taken the retrogressive road to a royalist revival to trumpet its nationalist line. But that is no different that the UCPN-M’s unprincipled and chameleon-like partnership with the Madhesi parties and new ethnicity-based parties.?

The opportunistic tendency of Nepali Maoism means it can concurrently be everything to everyone: it can be pro-Indian, pro-Chinese, monarchist, republican as long as it gets the party closer to state capture and absolute power.?

For a while last month, after Dahal went to Singapore on the pretext of treating his wife and Baidya went to China, it looked like the party may be headed for re-unification. Baburam Bhatarai’s resignation from vice-chairmanship of the party had made such a reunion even more likely. Dahal rushed back to meet Indian Minister of External Affairs, Salman Khursid, and that destroyed the half-built bridge between the two factions.

Jointly, the two Maoists can reinforce each other’s opposition to polls in November. This will not just mean no elections, but it will delay the constitution-writing process, and prolong this period of never-ending uncertainty and instability.

Managing Nepali politics now means managing the contradiction within the Maoist party. Until we do that, there will be no closure.

Muma Ram Khanal was a Central member of the Maoist party during the conflict. This is the second of his fortnightly column, Inside Out, in Nepali Times.

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