29 November-5 December 2013 #683

Post-mortem of a defeat

The Maoists have no one to blame but themselves for the rout in elections
Muma Ram Khanal
The UCPN (M) has reacted badly to its humiliating defeat in the elections. As results started coming in last week, the Maoist leadership concluded at a meeting conducted at 3am that the polls were rigged and that they were victims of an international and internal conspiracy to defeat them.

The immature reaction demonstrated that the Maoist leadership had become unhinged and was behaving in a politically unbalanced way. On the evening of 19 November, Pushpa Kamal Dahal had himself asserted that the polls had been free, fair, and independent. It had been Dahal’s proposal in the Hetauda Plenum to have the Chief Justice lead an election government. Although this was opposed by civil society, professional organisations, and the Bar Association, the elections took place because there was no other alternative.

Initially, the Maoists’ reaction could be blamed on the shock of defeat. But the party is still behaving in an irrational way. By playing bad losers, the Maoists have shown themselves to be anti-political, irresponsible, and still prone to making threats about going back to war. This has demolished what little credibility the party had earned in the past two years. The Maoists have no alternative but to accept the election results, not doing so would lead to a further dangerous split. The Baburam Bhattarai faction of the party doesn’t look like it will abandon the Constituent Assembly and Dahal may be driven into Mohan Baidya’s fold.

The party would be better advised to analyse the reasons for the defeat and to take steps to correct some of them. A post-mortem of the election result shows that there were many reasons why the UCPN (M) had to bear such an undignified loss:

1. The people’s abhorrence of political violence and the behaviour of Maoist cadre in intimidating and extorting ordinary people.

2. Popular rejection of ethnic politics and the Maoist support for federalism based on single ethnicity. The Maoists were blamed for planting the seeds of extreme ethnic politics both by backing ethnicity-based federalism and Madhes autonomy. The election results showed that this agenda was rejected by many Janajatis and Madhesis themselves.

3. It is true that secularism, federal republicanism, and the formation of a Constituent Assembly were mainly Maoist agendas which won support of the people in 2008 because voters thought that these would bring peace. But after seeing the arrogance of the Maoists in power, voters figured out that the promises were just slogans.

4. The Maoists were blamed for the failure in writing the constitution and the popular perception was that they just wanted to remain in power.

5. Pushpa Kamal Dahal, in particular, was blamed for being obsessed with returning to power and not caring too much about constitution-drafting.

6. Dahal became the Maoists’ main liability during the polls because of his contradictory statements, public lies, and the perception that he lacked integrity.

7. The CPN-M took away 90 seats and split the vote bank. Many CPN-M cadres actively campaigned against the parent party candidates. This fact alone was enough to cost the Maoists the election.

8. Even after the split, the real revolutionaries within the UCPN (M) became disenchanted with the leadership and were unhappy with the party embracing opportunistic newcomers.

9. The luxurious neo-capitalist lifestyle of the leadership (particularly Dahal and Hisila Yami) made the party unpopular with the cadres and the masses.

10. Maoist supporters and ex-fighters who had sacrificed all, had been wounded or suffered during the conflict asked: “What was it all for?” They had seen the party leadership siphon off allowances and compensation meant for them and the elections provided the perfect opportunity to exact revenge.

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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