Once foes, now friendsIt was during Sher Bahadur Deuba’s tenure as prime minister in 1996 the Maoists launched an armed rebellion led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Deuba was prime minister again in 2002, and in April that year, he officially labelled Maoists “terrorists” and declared bounties on Maoist leaders’ heads.
It was during Sher Bahadur Deuba’s tenure as prime minister in 1996 the Maoists launched an armed rebellion led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Deuba was prime minister again in 2002, and in April that year, he officially labelled Maoists “terrorists” and declared bounties on Maoist leaders’ heads. The Maoist rebels then even plotted to kill then prime minister. In a way, they were baying for each other’s blood.
Today after two decades, the fiercest of enemies have become friends , proving the old adage “politics makes strange bedfellows” very true .
What brings them together after 20 long years?
Political commentators say the new coalition between the Nepali Congress (NC) and the CPN (Maoist Centre), the recently adopted name of the former rebels, was necessary for both the leaders to re-establish themselves within their parties and in the international arena.
“For Deuba, once he became the party president and Parliamentary Party leader, it was necessary for him to continue his political legacy, especially on the heels of a failed attempt to topple the government,” says analyst Puranjan Acharya. “For Dahal, it was more of a necessity. He had a very defeated mentality following the dismal performance in the 2013 polls. He was even cautious about travelling abroad. The CPN-UML walked over his party in the last coalition and the Maoist Centre as a political organisation was at its weakest.”
The last time Dahal tried to pull out of the KP Sharma Oli government in May, Deuba and his party were at the centre stage. A turnabout by Dahal within 24 hours saved the Oli’s coalition then, but left the NC red-faced.
But when Dahal last month decided to withdraw support to the “left coalition”, he caught Oli napping. Deuba, who had felt betrayed by Dahal a few months ago, again came closer to Dahal, thanks to some key negotiators of both the parties and Oli government’s failure to honour the deal that was signed with Dahal. And one of the aspects of the deal was taking the peace process to a logical conclusion, which entailed putting the conflict-era cases to rest.
Deuba and Dahal, one as the head of government and another as the leader of the armed rebellion, are two significant parties of the decade-long war. The UML’s, or Oli’s for that matter, nonchalant approach to deal with war-era cases had made both Dahal and Deuba uncomfortable, and rightly so, as the transitional justice process has been dragging on for 10 long years.
As per an understanding between Dahal and Deuba, the former will lead the government for nine months and the latter will take charge for another nine months, during which the two governments have tasks cut out: implementing the constitution, addressing the grievances of the Madhes-based parties and other marginalised groups, expediting post-quake reconstruction and taking the pace process to a logical conclusion. Both have committed to working on theses pressing issues.
Political commentators say for Dahal and Deuba—once foes and now friends—have a historic opportunity to prove that their future actions now should be guided by “politics of conviction, not by politics of convenience.”
“Dahal during his address to Parliament made complete sense when he said that he has taken a risk with the changing political context,” says Acharya.