The post-ideology era Nepali politics has left ideology behind creating space for the development agenda

- Atul K Thakur, Kathmandu

Jul 8, 2016-

Ideology is now a weaker force in Nepali politics, and this makes the splinters of the original Maoist party better guarded to cope with existential crises. Noticeably, the temptation to reinvent themselves is high among the erstwhile obstinate comrades who were earlier involved in waging insurgency and killing thousands of people. However, alienation from the core group is not hindering the old ranks from pursuing divisive and contradictory programmes. Very recently, a radical left-wing faction led by old Maoist Netra Bikram Chand reverted to the basic and mindlessly factored in destroying base stations of Ncell mobile phone service. It came as a refusal to acknowledge any mistakes in the old 

Maoist ideology and strategy and a relentless commitment to continue the armed struggle.

Survival game

In contrast, there is the other example of one of the leading Maoist leaders Baburam Bhattarai trying to engage in a rare kind of experiment. The foundation of his new party Naya Shakti marks his departure from the official Maoist line where mainstreaming is still taboo. Bhattarai should be called a visionary who saw the imminent decline of the core Maoists in Nepal following their disastrous show in the wake of the earthquake and the constitutional crisis. For now, Bhattarai’s new political outfit finds a workable virtue in departing from the power-grabbing exercises of the Kathmandu elite who do not refrain from crossing ideological barriers and maintain a single plan to run the government in the strangest way. 

Ideology holds secondary importance for Prachanda in his quest to avoid prosecution for past actions. He has found his rescue route by supporting the strong political oligarchy of Kathmandu. The surprising rise of KP Oli and his survival instinct did not mature without the support of lapsed 

leaderships of the Nepali Congress, Maoists and his own party. The trend is very clear and one can read it on the wall: Nepal’s political elite are indulging in a survival game rather living up to the spirit of electoral politics.

A good candidate

In late September 2015, when the country was on the verge of alienating half its population over controversial provisions in the new constitution, Bhattarai visited Janakpur but without getting a rousing welcome. Instead he met people’s ire as he was among those behind the discriminatory constitution, and his late opposition to it was seen as an existential ploy to secure new political constituencies. Looking back, Bhattarai’s brush with power merits to be remembered for some mature deeds. He certainly was a popular leader who tried to bring welcome changes. He proved a better prime minister than Prachanda, however, he could not stop the misuse of power. He missed the pulse of expectations and weakened his prominence. 

Bhattarai’s new political wing is interested in advertising its programmes through the mass and other commercial media which is seriously different from the communist way of popularising their messages or propaganda. This distraction doesn’t help Bhattarai’s renewed attempt to drastically change Nepal’s political culture where ideally creativity should not be given priority. If Naya Shakti is giving far too many reasons to Bhattarai to leave the original impulses that initially drove the Maoist party, he should show a certain degree of political maturity by sticking to the developmental agenda. Even though this is not going to be much different from what the Nepali Congress experimented with in the 1990s by striving for equitable economic growth within a liberal political structure, Naya Shakti appears to be more promising than its peers in solving the country’s pressing ills.

Development discourse

Bhattarai is someone capable of understanding the structural weaknesses of Nepal where industrialisation was never given its due which alarmingly affected its interest. If it’s called a client nation, it should not infuriate home-grown policymakers who have forced the economy into that vicious trajectory. Course correction is the need of the hour, and if a political party aims to take up the mantle and support it with deeds, it deserves a chance. Poverty, hunger, inequality, unemployment, migration, exploitation and poor HDIs, these are are the challenges before anyone who thinks well for Nepal. Bhattarai should come to terms with them. Stepping into the ethnicity cobweb or forging an unholy nexus with political opportunists in the hills or the Tarai will not provide the requisite mileage to make him a tall leader once again. 

As Nepali politics is making headway in the post-ideology era, developmental discourses have to surface more frequently in political circles. Political overplay is a detested thing, and it should worry all political players who have been messing up the country beyond imagination. Kathmandu needs to offer much more to the whole country as the masses don’t live in a fool’s paradise. The new political culture can solve the manmade crisis, and of course, the alienation of Madhesis. Baburam Bhattarai has an opportunity here, and he has sensed it in time. He should show the large-heartedness of a great leader before scoring further with the precious tag of greatness.

Thakur is a New Delhi-based 

journalist and writer

Published: 08-07-2016 11:13

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