Print Edition - 2014-10-19  |  Free the Words

Sinking fast

  • Dissatisfaction with the UCPN (Maoist), once a revolutionary party, is increasing among public and cadres
- Jainendra Jeevan
Sinking fast

Oct 18, 2014-

The UCPN (Maoist) was once a revolutionary communist party that launched an armed rebellion, called the ‘People’s War’. Because of this ‘war’, 17,000 people lost their lives, thousands were maimed and about 100,000 displaced from their homes. Some 1,500 people were disappeared during the war (who were obviously killed) and property and infrastructure worth billions of rupees was destroyed, bombed.

In the run up to the rebellion, the Maoist leaders had collectively vowed not to end or put a halt to their war before total victory was achieved. However, the insurgence, which intended to establish a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, ended in a pact where the rebels agreed to take part in peaceful mainstream polity (read: bourgeois democracy).

Three pillars

The Maoists have attempted to keep their promise, albeit falteringly; twice, they tried to ‘seize’ power the way traditional communists do. First, their government tried to replace the chief of staff of the Nepal Army with a candidate of their choice. The aim was to ‘Mao-ise’ the Army fully, or make it too weak to foil any future takeover attempt. Next, they launched an indefinite general strike, which lasted for six consecutive days; they envisaged that ensuing chaos, disorder and public anger would topple the government, create a political vacuum, and pave the way for them to grab power. Both attempts failed miserably. In the first case, the whole institution of the Army and its then Chief stood firmly against the Maoist move; in the second, the people themselves came to the streets to challenge the Maoists.

The Maoists’ power and popularity have plummeted steadily over time. Their strength was founded on three pillars—popular appeal, people’s dissatisfaction with the incumbent government, and last, but not least, terror. A significant population in the rural hills, where poverty, unemployment, and social discrimination against the lower castes had been extreme, saw them as liberators; although they didn’t approve of the Maoist’s violent methods. Similarly, a certain section of urban dwellers and educated people, who were not happy with the lacklustre performances of the Nepali Congress, the party that ruled most often after the restoration of democracy, and the CPN-UML, wanted to give the Maoists a chance.

Nonetheless, the Maoists’ greatest strength was the application of fear psychosis. With the use of their ‘fright and fire’ power, they succeeded in dislodging their political rivals and critics from the countryside and, also, in influencing the election for the first Constituent Assembly (CA).

Gradual collapse

All these three pillars have now either cracked or collapsed. The reasons are many. First, the Maoists survived on tricks and not on ideals, as is expected from revolutionaries. Barring a few, they have fallen victim to greed, corruption, the lust for power, and moral degradation. Therefore, even people in their erstwhile base areas are now disappointed. Cadres and ex-combatants, who have been bereft of the comforts and benefits of power, are frustrated and disillusioned. Educated people who voted for them in the first CA polls are the most disenchanted of all. The third pillar—that of gun and muscle power—is gone now; eight years of peace time, a near vertical split in the party, the defection of the more militant ranks to the breakaway group, dissolution of their army and the surrender of arms, and an open tussle between its two top leaders—Prachanda and Baburam Bhatttarai—have thoroughly demoralised the UCPN (Maoist) ranks.

Under these circumstances, their slide in the second CA election was only natural, particularly with the breakaway party boycotting the polls. The UCPN (Maoist) should have, therefore, accepted the people’s verdict with dignity. They didn’t; instead, they blamed ‘subtle and systemic’ rigging for their defeat and boycotted the counting of votes in the middle of the night. They also refused to join the CA and pressed for a high level probe. However, when a parliamentary probe committee was formed, only ten cases of individual ‘irregularities’ (out of an elections for 601 seats), and not a single one of ‘subtle and systemic’ rigging, were filed. Nearly half of those petitions were filed by candidates belonging to parties other than the UCPN (Maoist).

The Maoists have always been asking, and bargaining, for more concessions. Every time the NC and UML seek their cooperation in writing the constitution, they put forward newer demands. They had been insisting that the statute be finalised only by consensus, and not by the constitutional provision of a vote. But they are not ready to compromise on their proposition of ethnocentric federalisation, which means they want consensus on their terms only. They asked for the chairmanship of the ‘constitutional, dialogue and political consensus committee’, the most important committee of the CA. Next, they demanded that a Political Committee, outside of the House, be formed and that their party chairman, Prachanda, head this Committee. The ruling parties have yielded to most of their demands, not because of merit, but because they wanted the former revolutionaries to continue as a partner in constitution writing (although the NC, UML and their allies have enough numerical strength in the CA to promulgate a constitution without the vote of the Maoists and their allies).

Not too late to change

The Maoist prescription of ethnocentric federalisation is dangerous for inter-ethnic social harmony and integration of the nation. Though actively pursued by radical Janajati and Madhesi groups/activists, this notion has already been rejected by an overwhelming, albeit silent, majority of the Nepali people. The UCPN (Maoist) is behaving like a regional and/or ethnic party, and not like a national party. On the one hand, chairman Prachanda, who is also the leader of the opposition in the House, bargains for his party’s share (bhagbanda) in most political appointments and on the other, he forms alliances with parties outside the CA, who don’t believe in the system and boycotted the CA election to launch another rebellion.

The UCPN (Maoist)’s downward slide is a result of their own misconstructions and misconduct. Their descent into comfort, greed, and power politics, their politics of ethnic divisiveness, their self-contradictions and double standards, and the double talk, unreliability, and Machiavellian tactics of the party chairman have started to backfire. The politics of deception can bring some quick benefits (which they have already reaped); in democracies, such tactics don’t work for long. Prachanda, therefore, needs to do some soul searching, and rectify his methods before it is too late, as time and tide wait for none.

Published: 19-10-2014 09:15

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