issues & analysis: Radical dilemmas
- The real intent of the CPN-Maoist’s demand for a roundtable conference was to remain relevant in national polity
Sep 20, 2014-
The faction known as ‘Baidya ideological group’—named after its leader Mohan Baidya ‘Kiran’—was functioning as a virtual separate entity within the party even when the UCPN-Maoist was undivided. But it was only after the differences and discontents over the ideological and political line practised by the main party reached its boiling point that the faction broke away some three years ago. The party Chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Machiavellian tactics and mindset, his monopoly over the huge and secretive party funds and real or perceived discrimination against members of the Baidya faction were other reasons that pushed the group to split.
Baidya and his followers believed that they, as true revolutionaries, will soon outdo ‘the revisionist’ UCPN (Maoist) and conquer the whole nation. However, everything—from their muscle power to popular appeal to their organisational strength—has only declined ever since the party split. Though UCPN (Maoist) has not fared any better, the CPN-Maoist has been hit harder. Last November, people defied their call to boycott the election for a Constituent Assembly (CA). Braving their threats and violence, and the winter morning chill, people queued up in droves in front of the polling booths long before they were open.
Following Mao’s dictum—“power comes through bullet, not ballot”—the CPN-Maoist proudly attempted, albeit in vain, to disrupt the election. However, they have not yet started firing bullets, although nearly three years have passed since the seventh general assembly of the party adopted ‘people’s revolt’ as its political line. Reasons for the delay and uncertainty are manifold. To make the long story short, time simply is not on their side. They know that, at the moment, ground realities of realpolitik and geopolitics are not conducive to shedding blood in the name of a communist insurgence; what they fail to comprehend is that things will not change for a long time to come. Besides, the party men are hardly as upbeat as they were eight years earlier to launch, and moreover, to keep up the rebellion.
It was against this backdrop that the CPN-Maoist considered changing its ways, at least for some time; although its goal (to establish a one-party communist state) stayed the same. What pressured them to change? Maybe, they realised that by boycotting the CA elections they had missed the train. That is why they had been demanding an all-party political conference ‘to write the constitution’. The real intent behind this demand, however, was not to have their say in the constitution. It was to remain relevant in national polity. Given the democratic forces’ comfortable majority in the CA, they know that the forthcoming constitution will be based on the principles of bourgeois democracy. Anyway, now that they have agreed to take part in constitution making they should have seized the opportunity to their benefit. Unfortunately, they chose to miss this train as well.
Despite their majority in the CA, mainstream parties encouraged the CPN-Maoist to contribute to constitution writing. They agreed to the dissenting party’s request to hold a conference where all parties—whether represented in the CA or not—would take part and where the CPN-Maoist would be a key player. But after all the preparations were made on September 16 and the conference was about to begin, the CPN-Maoist suddenly decided to stay away from it. The reasons cited were that their demands would not be met by the ‘powerless’ conference and that the meeting was only a ‘show’. They put forward fresh demands—the all-party conference should be empowered to conclude remaining works of the peace process, to perform many other business of ‘national importance’ and above all, to write the constitution. To fulfil their demand would have meant undermining the sovereignty of the people by bypassing the elected CA. Hence, nobody could agree to their demands.
The Maoists could have agreed on a democratic constitution with significant elements of social security, inclusion, and protection for the weaker communities. They did not. Maybe, the dogmatists had foreseen that by such ‘reformist’ approach to revolution—which is just what they accuse the UCPN (Maoist) to have done—they cannot justify why the party split. However, this is only one dimension of the truth. In fact, both in character and scale, the breakaway faction is, and may remain, different from the UCPN (Maoist). Unlike the latter, their rank and file is, by and large, free from the evils of corruption and lust for power. The party, therefore, might use the parliament as a forum for ‘revolution’ in the interest of the poor, the marginalised and the oppressed, without indulging in dirty power politics.
Even as the UCPN (Maoist) and its shrewd leader Dahal are wooing the Baidya faction to reunite, whether sincerely or with an intention to use them, they have their own interests and agenda in mind. Dahal wants a bigger share in the power structure, as well as a disproportionately greater and more decisive role than his party deserves in national polity. The moment Dahal gets the feeling that the CPN-Maoist is a stumbling block on his way to success, he will thrust it aside. Similarly, the reason the Madhesi parties are backing either of the Maoists is not because they are sympathetic to the Maoist cause; they too are using them to push their own agenda which is none other than a federal structure with one, or at most two, autonomous Madhes states. The unholy alliance between the Madhesi and Maoist parties which are poles apart in their respective ‘India policy’ and several other issues will only push the Maoists into the dark tunnels of regionalism and ethnocentrism, something alien to a classical communist party.
Certainly, the pact now reached between these three forces and several other minuscule parties may create trouble both in writing and/or in implementing the constitution. But it cannot stop the constitution from being written.
No doubt, if both Maoists and Madhesi parties—despite two of them being responsible players in the CA—will publicly disown the constitution and start fuelling ethnic and regional disharmony among different communities, the Madhesis, as ‘regionalist’ forces, may achieve some short-term gains. But in that case, the two Maoist parties will go down as traitors and villains. And, despite its occasional threats to do so, the UCPN (Maoist) has come too long a way to backtrack from the course of constitution writing and peace building. The Madhesi parties’ issue is a different story; it is, on the face of it, a battle of superiority between a Madhesi regional identity and a pan national identity; both Maoist parties have, in this regard, foolishly chosen to be placed in the wrong side of the divide. Whether they—the CPN-Maoist in particular—will correct themselves before it is too late, remains to be seen.
Published: 21-09-2014 09:11