Print Edition - 2016-12-29  |  Yearender 2016

Left in the middle

  • 2016 has been a tumultuous year for the Maoist movement and more pitfalls lie ahead
Questions have been raised on whether the Maoist Centre are headed towards democratic transformation, or if they have slipped back towards a more hardline Maoist ideology

Dec 29, 2016-Maoist movement saw a tumultuous 2016, where the party that waged a decade-long armed conflict continued to split. It was also a year of introspection for the party, which led to re-grouping of some of the previously-splintered factions and there’s yet some hope that the old revolutionary zeal can be revitalised and the lost ground regained.  .

The Maoists have been in a dilemma ever since they entered mainstream politics after the 2006 peace process. But even as the party gave up politics of the barrel for the ballot, no efforts were made towards organisational reform, with the party’s communist past continually at odds with the new democratic values being ushered in. 

One important thing happened in 2016 in the Maoist Centre—considered to be the torch bearers of the Maoist movement—the ouster of liberal leaders and an entry of hard-liners.

With this development, questions have been raised on whether the Maoist Centre are headed towards democratic transformation, or if they have slipped back towards a more hardline Maoist ideology.

A former Maoist leader Mumaram Khanal, who recently left the Bhattarai-led Naya Shakti Nepal because of differing views on ethnic issues, opines that the Maoist Centre has been plunged into a deep internal conflict 

and that the party is gradually heading towards further disintegration. One of the key Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai leaving the party after the new constitution was promulgated,   taking with him many of the leaders who were crucial to the movement, was a major setback for the Maoists this year. 

Bhattarai started strengthening his new force after announcing the Naya Shakti Nepal on June 12, claiming that the Maoist movement had completed its course after ending feudalism, monarchy and old state mechanisms and establishing a federal democratic republic in Nepal.

Chairman of CPN Revolutionary Maoist, Mohan Baidhya, claims that federalism, a republican set up and proportional inclusiveness were the achievements of the decade-long armed conflict that took lives of thousands of people, but maintains that the Maoist movement has a long way to go, as the issues of livelihood of the people and nationalism need further work. Despite the sacrifice of so many people, the livelihood of Nepal’s general public has not become easier, says Baidhya, accusing the Dahal-led party of duping the people.

On the other hand, Bhattarai is of the perspective that the chapter of the Maoist movement ceased to have any significance after it completed its course in Nepal. The country, now, according to Bhattarai, needs economic prosperity and the parties must not stay muddled in ideological issues. To that end, he continues to gather people from all sectors of society, regardless of their past allegiances, uniting them under the banner of his new party.

In terms of agenda, Maoist Centre is a force that could lead the nation for many years—as the nation has been reeling under its progressive agendas of economic and social transformation. But with a chaotic organisational structure and a lack of willingness to reinvent itself as per the need of the changed social and political context, Maoist Centre has faces many challenge in the years ahead in order to keep the party alive, claims a youth leader within the CPN Maoist Centre, Yubaraj Chaulagain.

The new generation of leaders within the Maoist Centre are also pessimistic about the fate of the party, and the movement as a whole, though they claim they see some rays of hope at the end of the tunnel.

Since the Maoists have not participated in any local elections, the upcoming local elections will shape the base of the Maoist Centre throughout the country and will be an eye opener for the party, whether they lose or win. “Maoism is currently still a movement and is yet to get the shape of a party and the local elections will create foundations at the grass-root level,” says youth leader Hemraj Bhandari. When the local elections take place, he says, it will serve as a litmus test for the Maoists.

Prime Minister and Chairman of CPN Maoist Centre Pushpa Kamal Dahal has claimed of late that the situation calls for unity among all the Maoist forces, including Baburam Bhattarai’s Naya Shakti, so as to safeguard the achievements of the People’s War. He has said that the hard-earned federalism, secularism and republican set-up are in danger because both the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML are being dragged by the Maoist movement to support these agendas and that they could withdraw their support anytime. 

A major challenge ahead for the Maoists is the addressing the party gradually losing its identity and charm. The million dollar question for the leadership is if they can revive the party, or cope with the new context and align themselves with the aspirations of the people.

Dahal still retains the hope of roping the splintered Baidhya and Chand factions back to the fold, even if Baidhya, Dahal’s mentor, has labelled the Dahal camp as “counter revolutionaries.”

Mohan Baidhya formed CPN-Maoist, in 2012, severing ties with Unified CPN Maoist. Later in 2014, Netra Bikram Chand also left with a significant chunk of party members to form CPN Maoist, deserting Baidhya. On May 20, 2016 a large faction of the Baidhya-led CPN Revolutionary Maoist joined the Dahal-led CPN Maoist Centre after Baidhya unified his faction with Pari Thapa’s CPN United to form CPN Revolutionary Maoist. 

Senior CPN Maoist leader Dharmendra Bastola opines that the year 2016 helped justify the decision of his party to split from the Dahal-led Maoist party, as the establishment faction has plunged into a parliamentary crevasse. He opines that, with the parliamentary gridlock the necessity and significance of the next revolution has become even clearer. Two distinct currents have been seen within the Maoist movement—parliamentary and revolutionary. Dahal leads the parliamentary one, while Chand-led CPN Maoist leads revolutionaries, he said.

Leaders, however, have now realised that the Maoist movement is slowly becoming irrelevant, although retaining the possibility of a remerging in the future. Even after becoming the third largest party in the Parliament, Maoist Centre has seized the opportunity to lead the government, which could be a golden opportunity to regain its lost glory, if handled properly. 

The success or failure of the Maoist Centre-led government is directly linked with the future of the Maoist party and the movement as well. 

Published: 29-12-2016 10:11

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