Nepal – Prachanda The Perpetual Revolutionary?
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, popularly known as Prachanda the Prime Minister of Nepal well deserved the honorable chair of the head of government having successfully transformed the Maoist revolution in Nepal into an elected government. However his penchant to remain a perpetual revolutionary seems to be his undoing. Witness the imbroglio of the Pashupatinath Temple, the holiest shrine for millions of Hindus across the World. By attempting to give it a nationalist touch through the conspirational route of, 'resignations' of the priests and then retracting it wisely after public outrage, Prachanda lost the credibility that goes with the high post of the Prime Minister, particularly with the multiplicity of challenges faced by the country.
Nepal's problems are well known at the top of the agenda is reconciliation between the main parties. The political confrontation in Nepal has its contours fairly well set now that the Maoists have declared that they would want to go in for a Republican coalition. Their ability to sustain this union against Centrist forces including Left wing centrists such as the UML may lead to some conflict in the future. Even the government which has the CPN M and CPN UML as the key constituents had differences in the past. Thus they reached a four-point agreement for improvement of relations in the last week of December.
The CPN M also is undertaking extensive deliberations on internal party structuring and measures to strengthen the party system which is in line with the concept of a people's democracy with one party rule. The Maoists are also taking the initiative in implementing pro poor projects across the country which may increase their popularity and would ensure greater attraction of the people to the party. The Nepal Congress and other centrists would have to redefine their constituency to avoid being left out of the political discourse in the future if they neglect issues at the grass roots. The Nepal Congress and the CPN UML would also have to strengthen their party structure taking cues ironically from their main political opponent the CPN M.
Tension is also building up between the Army and the government over recruitment in the Nepal Army. The United Nation Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) has stated that any new recruitment by the Nepal Army (NA) and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) will be a breach of the past agreements in a letter to Defense Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa. The Army is insisting that there is no recruitment but it is only filling up existing vacancies. The Army has the tacit support of parties as the Nepal Congress.
The larger problem of integration of the PLA and the NA continues to defy a solution. Nepal Congress (NC) President and former Prime Minister Mr Girija Prasad Koirala insisted that his party will not allow integration of PLA until the Maoists dissolve the youth wing Young Communist League (YCL)."Until and unless the YCL is dissolved, forget integration. I won't even let the management (of the former Maoist fighters) take place," he stated. The decision by the political parties to incorporate the key opposition party, the Nepal Congress into the Army Integration Special Committee (AISC) may defuse tension.
The NC is right to focus on dismantling youth groups as clashes between youth fronts of various parties are a common occurrence in Nepal now. Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minster Bam Dev Gautam said that the ongoing stand-off between the CPN-Maoist youth front Young Communist League (YCL) and the CPN-UML youth wing Youth Force (YF) is worsening each day and should be put to an end earliest. Action to restrain cadres is in the hands of the political parties but this is not being taken due to weak will and their utility in intimidating opponents. Dissolution of the YCL and the Youth forum are no doubt quite justified measures which the government would have to take to improve law and order in the country.
This is essential as these groups have become vigilante and are enforcing their own writ, coercing the common populace as well people of other parties. The police was finding it difficult to implement law and order as these cadres had political patronage. It is only by disbanding them that some order can be restored though this step is easier said than done, as they have substantial pull in the power hierarchy. The Maoist in particular would have to rein in YCL and loose cadres which are causing mayhem in the country. CPN M leadership would remain under pressure but is seen to be weak or does not have the will finding the militia useful to exercise influence by coercion. Should this be seen as a transitory period of an organisation from guerrilla warfare to electoral democracy or a greater ill of the Nepali politics remains to be seen.
The Nepal government has identified 21 armed groups in eastern Terai and has invited around 18 of them for talks. The main groups are five factions of the Janatantrik Terai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) led by --Goit, Jwala Singh, Ranvir Singh, Rajan and Pawan, Madhesi Tigers, Madhesi Mukti Tigers, Madhesi Virus Killers, Terai Army and Terai Cobra. Government has also prioritised six groups active in eastern Himalayan region and Chure Bhawar region that includes Sangiya Limbhuwan Parisad, Kirat Workers Morcha and Samyukta Limbhuwan Morcha. A broad strategy of combining talks with disarming is being attempted. Some of the groups are also demanding that they be integrated into the Nepal Army. The demand by the Terai Virus Killers for instance seems to have arisen from the trend of integration of the Nepal Army and the PLA. How far this claim is sustainable remains to be seen with various factors including political alignment, strength and age of the cadre and so on.
Under the circumstances it may be better for the Prime Minister to focus on the core issues as stated above and leave others as appointments of priests to well established norms and processes. Prachanda should remember that even Mao could not remain a permanent revolutionary however hard he tried.
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Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle
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