New Force awakensSociety and the country should give Baburam Bhattarai a chance to change if he wants to
It would certainly be out of the ordinary to read a fairy tale of Baburam Bhattarai’s (BRB) mental ordeal while delinking himself from his long-cherished Marxist-Leninist political belief and Mao Zedong thought, and his almost four-decade-long close ties with the variously named UCPN (Maoist) and his comrades, including the rank and file who had accepted his wisdom as a source of validation (BRB with a PhD on their side) of their involvement in the Maoist movement.
In world political history, there is a long list of political leaders who have dared to declare a shift in their political beliefs. Perhaps BRB too has been inspired by political thinkers-cum-leaders such as Rosa Luxemburg, Antonio Gramsci, Deng Xiaoping, Mikhail Gorbachev and others. Society and the country should give BRB a chance to change if he wants to change. And this is especially relevant at a time when the political parties have failed to deliver. They have only been maintaining the minimal state functions as they do not have a master plan and vision to transform the country as visualised by the new constitution. A large section of the people is frustrated with the performance of the existing political parties and is looking for an alternative.
The public is not much aware of the New Force, and it seems that it is still struggling to define its space and centre. Debates about the importance and significance of the New Force has been around for a long time, but cynicism still prevails among its supporters. The New Force aims to fill the gaps in the reformist right. Rightist forces too have officially declared that they want to remodel themselves from a traditional bourgeois into a reformist right, but have failed to do so. Most leftist political parties, in theory, reject the idea of Parliament for a smooth transition to socialism. However, in practice, they have been enjoying parliamentary freedom and issuing radical propaganda since 1990. The UCPN (Maoist) also used Parliament through its erstwhile wing Unity Centre. Fronts for the Nepali Congress and the CPN-UML also used Parliament (then in the avatar of the Rastriya Panchayat) to see if change was possible from within.
The New Force is aware that a legal transition to socialism is a far cry for leftist revolutionaries. It is attempting to switch to socialism through legal reforms in a parliamentary fashion. Except the Vaidya and Biplav groups, all the political parties including the Maoists are now parliamentary liberals. The New Force seems to be capitalising on this as a window of opportunity to enter the mainstream political force. Forming an alliance or a coalition government with the so-called bourgeois parties was a far-fetched idea for any leftist political party in Nepal until the change in 1990. It is due to the liberal space of parliamentary democracy that yesterday’s hard-core revolutionaries and today’s hard-core bourgeois politicians have been competing to form an alliance of parties with diametrically opposite political beliefs to create a coalition government.
Political inertia sets in when parties do not change despite an urgent need to do so. The existing political parties with their unchanged value system will fail utterly to face the challenges of the new constitution. The New Force seems to be cognizant of the requirement of self-advance and collective liberation to overcome inertia and the rebelliousness of the political forces. It has often been heard that the New Force aims to work for the country’s socio-economic development once the period of conflict with the political right is over after the advent of the new constitution. The Marxian philosophy of economic development often uses complex political semantics which is oftentimes confusing and misleading. Complex Marxian economic interpretation needs to be translated into simpler economic terms.
Vox populi, vox Dei
Though the New Force has not said explicitly whether or not it will free itself from a dogmatic Marxian economy and adopt market-based rules of economics, it should endeavour to embrace, accept and adopt a socialistic state whose role will be to repackage production and distribution. Bourgeois economics is mechanical whereas socialist discipline is autonomous and spontaneous. Though competition is an essential component of bourgeois capitalism, it has not yet been so well institutionalised in the national state. The political parties are a mere arbitrary superstructure which lack effectiveness and achieve nothing except the interests of the party and the person. Viewed thus, they are maximalists. The power centre remains uncertain when Parliament is subordinated by the executive. The parliamentarians act as “courier guys” who work on behalf of the cronies and in the interest of groups rather than engaging in state affairs.
The New Force can get the best insight from the Trinamool Congress which broke away from the Indian National Congress in 1998 in West Bengal, India. The Jyoti Basu-led communist party had been in power for almost 25 years with minimal presence of other political parties. A charismatic Mamata Banerjee became successful in changing the plight of the party by securing the fourth position in the general election to the Lok Sabha in 2014.
In an open competitive political system, formation and reformation of political
parties is business as usual and is taken for granted. A plural political system offers opportunities for alternative thoughts to flourish, and it is up to the sovereign
people of Nepal to make their free choice. If a party can pass the litmus test of popular choice, it will prevail; otherwise, it will become a moment in political history.
There is nothing to worry about and fear from the New Force. Let BRB get a level playing field and be baptised by fire yet again. But this time he should move ahead not with the barrel of a gun but by winning the hearts and minds of the people. In a
democracy, vox populi, vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God), as they say in Latin.
Joshi is a nominated Member of Parliament