In UML split, Maoist Center sees chance to regain relevance
Once registered with the Election Commission, the CPN (Unified Socialist) party of Madhav Nepal is most likely to extend its support for the government of Sher Bahadur Deuba, in exchange for a few ministerial seats. Nepal has already applied for registration after splitting from the CPN-UML, which it led for 15 years from 1993 to 2008. Nepal’s decision to split off from KP Sharma Oli, the president of the UML, made by Deuba, or the Nepalese Congress for that matter, the beneficiary.
However, in the long run, the party that will benefit is the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) and the leader who will give it to their heart is its leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal.
After the Supreme Court relaunched the Maoist Center and the UML on March 7, invalidating the Communist Party of Nepal (PCN) they had formed in May 2018 after a merger, Dahal was looking for a board to survive. Competing with a strong UML, which has a strong organizational base across the country at different levels, during the elections would have been a daunting task for Dahal.
Observers say that while the Nepalese Congress is likely to make a comeback after its massive loss in the 2017 election as the first party due to the UML split, the Maoist Center may attempt to prove its relevance.
“A split within the UML was in Dahal’s interest, rather than Deuba’s. This is why Maoist Chairman Dahal was pushing for it, ”said Lok Raj Baral, professor of political science. “There is a realization in the Maoist Center that its relevance is over and that it has no programs to sell during the elections.”
According to Baral, the Maoist Center will now try to forge an alliance with Nepal as well as the Janata Samajbadi Party led by Upendra Yadav and Baburam Bhattarai.
“It’s always good for parties like the Maoist Center when the direct competitor is weakened,” Baral said.
The Maoist Center has already launched initiatives to explore the possibilities of forging a left alliance with like-minded forces.
On Sunday, the meeting of the Party’s Standing Committee decided to forge the unity of the revolutionary forces, if possible, or at least an alliance, after strengthening the organizational structures of the party.
“Actually, we didn’t want to separate and stay as the Nepalese Communist Party,” said Haribol Gajurel, member of the Standing Committee of the Maoist Center. “It was the court that forced our separation. So we will join Madhav Nepal again.
Although Nepal applied for the Unified Socialist (CPN) in the Election Commission, a seasoned politician like him is well aware that making it a strong party for the next election is a Herculean task. While the local elections are only seven months away, the general elections will be held in about 14 months.
Historically too, dissident Communist factions have performed poorly in elections. One of the examples is CPN-ML.
In 1997 Bamdev Gautam, a longtime communist leader, split from the UML to form the CPN-ML. After failing to win a single seat in the 1999 election, Gautam returned to the parent party, the UML. CP Mainali, however, decided to stay in CPN-ML, but this is nowhere seen in Nepalese politics.
It will be some time before the CPN (Unified Socialist) of Nepal comes up with its ideology and its program. And if he continues to follow what UML is following, he will have little to say to the public when during the election campaign, observers say.
Despite its decision to form a different party, Nepal itself has not ruled out the possibility of an alliance, even with Oli’s UML.
Observers say Oli might not be wary of possible alliances between Dahal and Nepal, as he feels confident about the strong organizational base of his UML. During the polls, the direct fight of the UML will be with the Nepalese Congress. Oli still has a few items on the agenda, including the new map of Nepal his government unveiled in May of last year. Oli may not hesitate to turn to Hindutva – he has already given some guidance – an issue that strikes a chord with a significant section of voters.
And there is an anti-titular factor, which could be to Oli’s advantage.
“I don’t think the Nepalese Congress will be able to take advantage of the opportunity offered by the UML split, given the tendency of its leaders,” Baral said. “It all depends on how Deuba behaves in terms of governance.”
So, in the fight between the UML and the Nepalese Congress, Dahal sees a chance to steal some constituencies. The 2013 Constituent Assembly elections were a hard lesson for Dahal, as his party was relegated to the third party, just five years after becoming the largest party in 2008.
The Nepalese Congress and the Maoist Center had also formed an alliance in the past, but after the first phase of local elections in 2017, Dahal decided to rely on the UML. For the Nepalese Congress, sharing constituencies with any other party is not easy due to the large number of aspirants. And Dahal knows it well.
For Dahal’s Maoist party, running for office alone will not be easy either. This is why Dahal was desperately trying to break the UML.
“Even if Congress emerges victorious, it is unlikely to secure a majority in the next poll,” said Krishna Pokharel, who teaches political science at Tribhuvan University. “Oli’s UML and other left-wing parties in the current coalition will fight for the second and third positions.
The Maoist Center which envisioned a hopeless future after its rebirth is now breathing a sigh of relief after the UML split, as it has found some respite.
At the party’s Central Committee meeting, which ended on August 15, Dahal, according to insiders, himself admitted that they were on the verge of losing importance.
“If we continue with our current activities, this holiday will be of no use. Communist parties around the world have fallen, ”a central committee member quoted Dahal at the meeting said. “If we can’t be honest with our standards and the people in our class, we should instead get involved in research or start writing books by dissolving the party.” “
According to Pokharel, there could be two possible alliances in the country by the next elections – a left-wing alliance of the Maoist center, the CPN (Unified Socialist) of Nepal and the Janata Samajbadi (JSP) party of Bhattarai-Yadav and the other from Oli’s UML, Rastriya Parti Prajatantra and Parti Loktantrik Samajbadi from Mahantha Thakur.
Since Congress and UML have their voting shares consistent, the Maoist Center will try to take advantage of the gaps created by the UML and JSP splits.
“The UML split in particular could also give rise to a large left alliance which can have significant influence on the politics of the country,” Pokharel said. “Politically, the Maoist Center is the beneficiary, because it will try to assert its relevance. “