Chand-led party expresses willingness to hold dialogue with the governmentThe announcement, two years after the party’s activities were banned, comes amid a changing political scenario in the country since the lower house was dissolved.
The Communist Party of Nepal led by Netra Bikram Chand has expressed its willingness to sit for talks with the government.
Issuing a statement on Saturday, Chand, the party’s general secretary, who is known by his nom de guerre Biplab, said his party is positive about dialogue with the government.
“Our revolution is a conscious attempt for the progressive transformation of the nation and society and for the benefit and rights of the people,” states the statement signed by Chand.
“I would like to inform everyone that if an environment for [us] to carry out our activities and programmes among the people is created, our party is positive about [holding] dialogue with the government.”
The statement comes exactly two years after a blast carried out by the party claimed one life in Nakkhu of Lalitpur. The deadly explosion in Nakkhu on February 22 and another one a month later in Basundhara had prompted the KP Sharma Oli government to brand the party as a criminal outfit and impose a ban on its activities.
“Now the government will respond to Chand’s statement and the process of dialogue will begin soon,” said Mani Thapa, minister for water supply, who of late has been involved in informal talks with Chand party leaders. “I don’t think the government will immediately lift the ban on the activities of the party.”
The Chand party’s willingness to sit for talks comes a day after Prime Minister KP Sharam Oli made a public appeal to all the forces to join peaceful politics. The statement from the Chand party also follows a chargesheet by police on February 15 at the Morang District Court against 42 members of the party, including Chand, in connection with the murder of school principal Rajendra Kumar Shrestha in Miklajung Rural Municipality-1 on December 8.
Chand, a former Maoist, formed his Communist Party of Nepal in 2014 to launch what he calls “unified people’s revolution''.
He had left Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Maoist party in 2012, six years after the end of the “people’s war”, along with Mohan Baidya and Ram Bahadur Thapa, accusing Dahal of leaving the revolution halfway and deviating from the revolutionary ideology.
He, however, left the Baidya-led Maoist party in 2014, saying Baidya “can lead neither the party, nor the class struggle”.
Ever since forming the Communist Party of Nepal, in which he shed the Maoist tag later, Chand cadres were involved in carrying out violent activities, extortions and arson. Some international companies were primarily the Chand party’s target.
The Nakkhu blast, in front of the headquarters of Ncell, a private telecom operator whose towers were constantly attacked by Chand’s cadres, was the first since the Communist Party of Nepal was formed in which a person died.
Ever since the party’s activities were banned, the government has rounded up a larger number of its leaders and cadres, including some senior ones like Hemanta Prakash Oli and Dharmendra Bastola.
After the ruling Nepal Communist Party split on December 22, following Oli’s December 20 decision to dissolve the House of Representatives, both the factions—led by Oli and Dahal—were in a bid to woo Chand.
The Oli faction, however, was quick to make some moves, and Thapa, also a former Maoist leader who was appointed minister on December 25, had on February 2 met Hemanta Prakash Oli, a leader of the Chand party in Nakkhu Jail.
Thapa had said he discussed with Oli the possibility of dialogue with his party.
Lately, Chand was in talks with Rishi Ram Kattel, Aahuti (Bishwa Bhakta Dulal) and Mohan Baidya to form a “strategic unified front” which was announced on February 11. The front, according to leaders, has demanded an alternative to the existing parliamentary system.
Kattel leads the Nepal Communist Party. Dulal leads Baigyanik Samajbadi Communist Party and Mohan Baidya leads the CPN (Revolutionary Maoists).
“We have been saying that the government move of imposing a ban on Chand party’s activities was unconstitutional,” said Kattel. “Chand is ready for dialogue if the government lifts the ban, but I don’t think they will join the government.”
According to Home Ministry officials, more than 2,000 leaders and cadres of the Chand party have been arrested and of them more than 135 are currently in jail.
The party’s Standing Committee member Dharmendra Bastola, according to the party, was arrested on January 13 from Lalitpur. On Monday, he was re-arrested after the court ordered the government to release him.
At least four people have been killed by Chand’s party and as many members of the outfit have been killed in government actions over the last three years. Seven members of the party have died when their improvised explosive devices accidentally went off.
Janardan Sharma, a former Maoist leader and Chand’s old friend, said Chand party leaders had been in touch with the government for some time and that Saturday’s statement shows they could have reached some arrangement.
“They were in informal talks [with the government], but today’s statement by Chand shows they seem to have reached some kind of arrangement,” said Sharma, a Standing Committee member of the Nepal Communist Party (Dahal-Nepal faction). “Oli is trying to take the credit of bringing Chand’s party to mainstream politics.”
If Chand sits for talks and renounces his violent activities, Oli could describe it as yet another of his feats, as in March 2019 he managed to make CK Raut, who had been leading a free Madesh movement, renounce his campaign.
Oli of late has been trying to woo even former Maoist fighters. In January third week, Oli held a meeting with former Maoist combatants, including those who were disqualified from the integration process. The Oli Cabinet on January 25 decided to honour and provide separate identity cards for all those who fought during the armed conflict and were part of the 2006 second people’s movement.
Ashok Subedi, a member of the Chand party’s central publication department, said they were never against talks but the previous Som Prasad Pande-led government’s talks team had listed the Communist Party of Nepal among some forces having criminal backgrounds.
“So we ignored the earlier calls for talks,” said Subedi. “Now when the government is weak, we want to use this opportunity.”
The Pande-led team had submitted its report to the government in December 2018.
In the past too, the Chand party had said it was ready for talks but had put forth some preconditions—lifting of the ban imposed on its activities, release of its leaders and a formal invite for talks.
Sources say Chand’s statement on Saturday came as the Communist Party of Nepal was seeking to save face and Oli is trying to create a situation in his favour in the changed political scenario.
If the Supreme Court upholds Oli’s House dissolution move, the country will head for the polls, and Oli, according to analysts, is making all-out attempts to woo extreme rightists and leftist forces.
“Chand’s political programme is to conclude a people’s revolution so I don’t think he has any plans to complete it by joining hands with Oli,” said Shyam Shrestha, a political analyst who has followed Nepal’s left politics for decades. “But Chand also needs some breathing space to build up his organisation.”
According to Shrestha, Oli could have also seen the prospects of Chand’s support for the upcoming election if that were to happen.
“If Chand indeed sits for dialogue and joins mainstream politics,” said Shreshta, “Oli will take the credit, and use it to his political advantage.”