Birth of the left allianceAnalysing the recent history of Nepali politics in the frame of Freytag’s Pyramid
Suspicions and fabrications about the left alliance and its sweeping election victory and would-be unification are the talk of the town. However, there has been little scrutiny into the political circumstances and recent breakthroughs that led to the present metamorphosis in Nepali politics. The coming together of the two biggest left forces was not any act of revolution but a necessary move to break up a protracted political stalemate. At the same time, a rising group of politically enlightened people had had enough of the hypocritical performance of the leaders and the parties, and they became judgmental regardless of party affiliation.
The left alliance is an outcome of evolving political maturity among the Nepali people. This write-up makes use of German novelist Gustav Freytag’s Pyramid, a pattern created in the form of a pyramid to analyse the plot structure, to explain the structural evolution of recent political developments.
The situational exposition of Nepali politics has been divided into two categories: national in general and political in particular. The former refers to the nationwide movements from the abolishment of the Rana regime, dissolution of Panchayat system, restoration of democracy and Maoist insurgency to People’s Movement II with the end of the monarchy as its primary landmark. Constant political disappointments between these events fuelled frustration. Consequently, it foregrounded a situation where people’s repudiation of the leaders and parties intensified.
The latter category denotes internal fragmentation within and among the leading parties: the split between Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai, unhealthy competition within the Nepali Congress (NC) and gap among Madhes-based politicians. Exceptionally, the CPN-UML under the chairmanship of KP Oli timely diagnosed a potential division among the heads and cleverly adopted a ‘discourse of progressive politics’. Remaking oneself as per the growing awareness among the citizens became the UML’s central theme, and it was rewarded in the local election.
Dramatic action brings an unexpected diversion in the plot. The plot takes on a new direction for better or worse. The ‘turning point’ in Nepali politics from this vantage point is the humanitarian crisis that followed the killer earthquake and India’s unofficial economic blockade. A defensive and protective mechanism was invisibly demanded by the people’s psychology, and KP Oli’s government showed a stroke of genius. Oli took a firm stand against India’s domination and political interference, and silenced the southern neighbour by extending trade relations with China. While the NC and the Madhes-based parties remained reluctant to realise the blow to the people’s sense of national honour and dignity, Oli’s government grabbed the opportunity to accomplish its new discourse of progression, and secured a place in the hearts of the citizens.
Events, incidents and actions build up tensions and complications to push the plot towards a climax, in this case the formation of the left alliance. While the left forces earned enormous popularity for their efforts against India’s oppression, the NC foolishly sided with India’s strategy to split their partnership. Suddenly, the Maoists withdrew their support, and Oli’s government fell. Later, the NC and the Maoists agreed to share power. This separation taught Oli and his party a big lesson. The people remembered his unconditional act of patriotism during the crisis. Prachanda headed the government under the new alliance, but it faced a challenge to surpass the Oli administration’s popularity. So the government targeted the elimination of load-shedding and the inclusion of Gagan Thapa in the Cabinet to win the people’s hearts overnight. It succeeded in doing so, but the Maoists gained more from the alliance than the NC.
The UML performed magically at the local elections while the Maoists elevated themselves to the position of the third largest party. Somewhere in a corner, the embryo of the left alliance was starting to grow. Then the NC led the government with Deuba as the head. The Congress had a golden chance to repair its deteriorating status and maintain its glorious history, but the leadership let it down. Deuba’s monopolistic decision-making, ignorance of his contemporary Ram Chandra Poudel’s valuable participation and lack of collaboration with prominent young members like Gagan Thapa drove the party’s prestige into a ditch.
This cycle of destruction deepened with its paradoxical role in the case of the suspended chief of the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) Lokman Singh Karki, impeachment motion against the first woman chief justice Sushila Karki, giant size of the Cabinet and the posting of several officials before the elections. All these wrong moves diminished the image of the Nepali Congress because of which the big left parties designed a sensational joint political venture. People chose them as being the best not because they were the best, but they seemed to be better than their competitors.
This is the highest point of the plot where the situation has either a happy ending or a tragic ending, according to Freytag. The climax of tension and complication goes into a cooling process. The reconciliation and formation of the left alliance during the election reveals the climax. Two parties came up with a promise to form the largest left party and rescue the country from political instability and lead it on the path of progress, prosperity and political stability.
This is the stage where the climax is settled. Mystery and suspense are unfolded. It takes a shift towards a point of resolution. The clean sweep scored by the left alliance in the House of Representatives and Provincial Assembly elections marks the falling action in Nepali politics. Similarly, internal conflict between the old leadership and the new leadership within the NC and the failure of the newly-born parties to secure more seats has further compelled citizens to prefer solidarity among the two biggest left forces and its successful unification.
Freytag’s last stage suggests the conclusion of the story. However, in the case of Nepali politics, there has been only one resolution—selection of the two largest left forces instead of a messy entanglement of many parties with the politics of theoretical polarisation. Whether the left alliance gets unified as promised and rule the country for the proper institutionalisation of the hard-earned people’s constitution is still another resolution that may produce, as an exposition, another plot of the upcoming political course. Thus, without being carried away by the momentous election victory, leaders of the two left parties must be mindful of the fact that they are still under people’s scrutiny.
Chalise is a Lecturer at St. Xavier’s College, Maitighar