‘We will be the country’s biggest communist party’CPN (Maoist Centre) leader and Energy Minister Pampha Bhusal on various aspects of the polls scheduled for November 20.
The only female office bearer of the CPN (Maoist Centre), who is also the Energy Minister, Pampha Bhusal is a prominent figure in Nepali politics. Also the deputy general secretary of the party, Bhusal is contesting federal elections from Lalitpur-3. The Post’s Tika R Pradhan talked to Bhusal amid her hectic campaigning on various aspects of the polls scheduled for November 20.
How would you describe the party’s election campaigning thus far?
Our campaigns have just begun. We started campaigning from Friday after completing our political training. Our campaigning is different this time as the Election Commission has restricted us from fanfare. Huge rallies have become a thing of the past; we now take only around 25 people on vote-canvassing. We have also restricted musical performances. Therefore, our campaigns are now much more sober and peaceful.
There are concerns that vote transfer is difficult between Nepali Congress and Maoist Centre. How confident are you about transfers?
I don’t see a problem with vote transfer. During the local polls, Chiribabu Maharjan of Nepali Congress won mayor from Lalitpur but Maoist Centre’s candidate lost in the deputy mayoral race. Problems with vote transfer was one reason for the loss but in elections, the personality of the candidates is as important.
Is the Maoist Centre falling short of agendas as you only talk about safeguarding political progress and fighting regressive forces?
There are many such agendas but it’s important for us to safeguard the political achievements of the struggle of Nepali people for over seven decades. Economic development is not possible without political stability. We are focusing on youth employment, environment, industrialisation, modernising agriculture, and the development of hydropower. We also want to promote tourism.
What about your party’s political agendas?
Again, political stability is essential for economic development. We had forged an electoral alliance during the previous polls as well, so that we could herald an era of political stability on the back of our two-thirds majority. We need to make some structural changes so that the new government can serve out its full five-year term.
Our party has come up with a proposal for a directly elected executive head for which we can also recommend changes in the constitution.
Even development projects take at least five years to shape. But in the past decade or so, frequent political changes have cost Nepalis a lot—tens of thousands have sacrificed their lives, seven decades have been spent, and more than two generations have dedicated their time and effort to bring about political changes in the country. Therefore, it’s important to safeguard these achievements. The issue of national independence is also of utmost importance.
Nowadays, the difference in the quality of education provided in private and public educational institutions is creating two different classes of people. If this continues, we may have another revolution in hand. We have the responsibility of ensuring quality education across all educational institutions, private or public.
We must also make the public health sector on par with the private one. We must focus on scientific, practical and professional education. Our other challenges are to ensure proper utilisation of barren lands and provide opportunities to our skilled human resources so that we can control out-migration.
Everyone seems to talk about the problems but few have plans to resolve them. What are the solutions you offer?
We propose integrated farming systems, the use of modern tools in traditional farming communities, and making fertilisers available all the time. We can produce fertilisers in the country, which would free us of the burden of imports. We have huge swathes of lands that are barren. We should not allow that—landholders should either cultivate the land themselves or let someone else do it. This will have a two-fold effect: It will decrease our dependence on import of foodstuffs including vegetables and it will make the country self-dependent. Focusing on agriculture would not only create employment but also boost the country’s economic development.
If we can ensure a full-term government, all of the above goals will become a reality. We can ensure development that took some 50 years in the past in the next 10-15 years.
Why do you think the Maoist party, which was the largest force in 2008, has been steadily losing its influence?
We are the chief agents of political and social changes in the country. People wholeheartedly trusted us in 2008 but we could not keep our party intact. The party’s continuous downfall shows internal stability of the party is important. The degeneration continued until 2016 when many splinters joined the party forming CPN (Maoist Centre). Now, and gradually, we are getting united with other splinter groups joining the main force.
As your chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has stated, will your party emerge as a decisive third force?
We know that we cannot be the first party through the November polls as we have not fielded our candidates in all constituencies. But we will become the second force of the country and first among the left forces. I don’t know what and where our chairman spoke but we will emerge as the second-largest party. In the next five years, we will strengthen our party base and become number one in the next polls.
On what basis do you say that CPN (Maoist Centre) will emerge as the second-largest force?
We will win the maximum number of seats among our 47 FPTP candidates, increase on our previous tally in Proportional Representation and then merge the party with CPN (Unified Socialist) led by Madhav Nepal. We have already formed a Unity Coordination Committee for the same. Baburam Bhattarai-led party is also joining us along with other left forces. With this, we will become first among the communist forces and second in national politics.
How do you see the future of independent candidates? Are they a threat to mainstream forces?
I don’t believe many independent candidates will win and pose a threat to political parties. The existing political parties have spent seven to eight decades trying to bring about meaningful changes. Some individual leaders and parties may be weak but the majority are strong actors.
Our constitution has adopted a party system of the government of majority and the opposition of minority. We cannot work outside the party system. One needs 138 seats to lead the government and there won’t be any significant role of an individual. The impact of a newspaper article could be greater than an individual speaking in parliament. There is a widespread attack on existing parties who brought a change in the country and ensured the right to expression for all. Now people are using those rights fully. But it is not good to attack that political leadership.
An individual who has not spent a single minute or a drop of sweat for the country cannot rule it.
If we can safeguard the party system we can ensure socio-economic development to bring meaningful changes in public lives.
Do you suppose people are not happy with the way the current leaders behave?
You can see that political parties reflect public sentiments, for instance in the changes they made in the name-list of Proportional Representation candidates. Many names were deleted and did not make it to the second list. Asking political parties to correct their course is one thing but attempting to derail the existing political system is another. What people don’t like is nepotism and cronyism.
What do you think about independent candidates in your constituency?
We don’t care about independent candidates whether they are in my constituency or in other parts of the country. We have strong political bases throughout my constituency and we are competing against other party candidates. We have wards, toles and cell committees and sister wings including students, teachers, intellectuals, women, youths, professionals among others. We are ahead of the independent on most things.
Why can’t your party be more inclusive both in terms of organisation and election candidates?
We have 33 percent women in the Standing Committee and that would help in the next convention to ensure inclusiveness in the higher party committees. Among our 47 FPTP candidates, only eight are women largely because of alliance compulsions. There are other problems also—some female leaders were not confident of competing against their better-resourced male candidates while others didn’t get their desired constituencies.