Dahal proposes a new front of ‘socialists’ but offers little clarityIn what comes as a surprise to many, the Maoist Centre chair holds a meeting of members of the Secretariat of the invalidated NCP—without those from the UML.
CPN (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal has proposed forming a new front comprising forces whose political line is socialism. He made the proposal at the party’s Central Committee meeting that started on Sunday.
“An immediate front of the parties, forces and individuals who believe socialism is the ultimate goal is the need of the hour,” Dahal stated in his 10-page “Brief Political Document” presented at the Central Committee (CC) meeting. “An open debate and discussion should be held on socialism with Nepali characteristics, an action plan to achieve that and development of a revolutionary force through a socialist front.”
Dahal also told the meeting that former Maoists are coming together and that it would give more strength to the party.
“We former Maoists are getting together,” a CC member quoted Dahal as saying. “This will make us stronger.”
Dahal’s political paper does not give details of the proposed ‘socialist front.’
This, however, comes at a time when Dahal has been in talks with his former deputy and current federal council chair of the Janata Samajbadi Party Baburam Bhattarai who has been making a pitch for setting up a ‘socialist centre.’ His proposal also comes amid talk about forming a left alliance by bringing Nepal’s communist forces together under one umbrella.
At Sunday’s meeting, Dahal was also critical of the Nepali Congress, the leader of the current ruling coalition of which his party is a partner.
“The Congress didn’t seek electoral alliances where it was strong. It forged an alliance with the CPN-UML and other parties where the Maoists or other parties were strong. And it ensured an alliance [with us] where the Congress was weak,” Dahal said in his report.
According to CC members, of the 10 provincial leaders who presented their reports during Sunday’s meeting, most complained that the Congress was neither serious nor honest about the alliance during the local polls.
In his political report, Dahal has also stated that a large number of votes became invalid because the Congress didn’t vote for coalition candidates and that it oriented its voters in such a way that only its candidates could win.
However, he has ruled out the possibility of an alliance with the UML, in an indication that he still prefers an alliance with the Congress during the upcoming polls due later this year.
In what surprised many, Dahal later on Sunday evening held a meeting of a majority Secretariat members of the then NCP.
“The meeting of the five former Secretariat members of the Nepal Communist Party discussed contemporary politics, national sovereignty, local polls, left and socialist movements, and coalition with the Congress, among others,” said Ramesh Malla, chief personal secretary to Dahal. “The top leaders have agreed to give continuity to such meetings.”
The nine-member Secretariat of the now defunct NCP included Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Ram Bahadur Thapa, Ishwar Pokhrel, Bishnu Poudel and KP Sharma Oli.
Currently, Dahal and Shrestha are with the Maoist Centre; Nepal and Khanal are with the CPN (Unified Socialist), which was formed after splitting from the UML; and Thapa, Pokhrel and Poudel are with the UML, which is led by Oli.
Gautam has recently formed a new party—Nepal Communist Party-Ekata Rastriya Abhiyan, aiming at bringing Nepal’s communist parties under one roof.
It is not immediately clear what Dahal is trying to achieve by holding a meeting of the Secretariat members of an invalidated party.
Maoist leaders say the meeting of the Secretariat members of the NCP could help build pressure on the Congress so as to keep the current coalition intact while also keeping the door for unity among the communists ajar.
In the Congress, the Shekhar Koirala-led rival camp has upped the ante against party president and prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, saying that he has been a failure in governance and party affairs. The Koirala camp has accused Deuba of functioning more like a coalition leader than the executive head and party chief.
Seat-sharing for the upcoming polls among coalition partners is going to be a tough task. Therefore, the Maoist Centre wants to build pressure on Deuba who fears a left alliance so as to avoid an election disaster like in 2017.
Insiders in the Maoist party say Dahal is a good strategist and tends to keep multiple cards up his sleeve to maintain his relevance.
Dev Prasad Gurung, a senior Maoist leader, said the ultimate goal is to bring all the communist parties in one fold.
“There, however, is one thing… our party policy to create a grand left alliance minus the UML,” Gurung told the Post. He, however, would not explain how, especially when his party chair Dahal is insisting on contesting the upcoming elections under an alliance with the current coalition partners.
Beside the Congress and the Maoist Centre, the other partners in the coalition are the Unified Socialist, Janata Samajbadi Party [People’s Socialist Party] and Rastriya Janamorcha. Some assume Dahal’s ‘socialist front’ idea aims to woo the Janata Samajbadi, led by Upendra Yadav, who is also a former Maoist leader.
According to Narayan Kaji Shrestha, another senior Maoist leader, discussions on various political issues have started and that the meeting of the Secretariat members of the NCP is just part of regular political exercise.
“We discussed the problems facing the country, including the crisis on nationalism, the development of leftist movement and the struggle so far to safeguard the constitution and democracy as well as socialism and its future,” Shrestha told the Post. “We also talked about how long the coalition with the Congress can continue.”
According to him, leaders were in favour of taking initiatives for protecting nationalism, and achieving socialism by safeguarding the constitution and democracy.
Asked if the Maoist party is preparing to make a call for unity among the communists, Shrestha said no discussions were held particularly on that topic.
“We have just started discussions… things will be clear gradually,” said Shrestha. “The issue of a left alliance is also on the agenda but we didn’t discuss that today.”
Political analysts say it is too early to say whether a left alliance is possible, but the Maoist Centre may be able to woo “some” former Maoist leaders.
“I think some former Maoist leaders and cadres could join Dahal if he sent out a public call as they are also seeking to maintain their political relevance,” said Jhalak Subedi, an analyst who follows Nepal’s leftist politics closely. “But I don’t think other parties could accept his proposal even for an electoral alliance before the polls.”