Speculations over communist alliance suit the Maoist Centre just fineCPN-UML wants to forge an alliance with Maoist Centre, whose leaders won’t deny left alliance rumours.
As the seat-sharing discussion among the ruling five parties is getting knottier by the day, the CPN (Maoist Centre) leaders have said their option of forging a left alliance is not yet a ‘closed chapter’.
The five coalition partners–the Nepali Congress, the CPN (Maoist Centre), the CPN (Unified Socialist), the Janata Samajbadi Party, and the Rastriya Janamorcha–are struggling to make headway in seat-sharing as all five parties have stood their ground on the minimum number of seats they want.
The main opposition CPN-UML, frightened by the sheer prospect of confronting the five-party colossus in the November 20 polls, has been making quiet overtures to the Maoist Centre.
But Maoist Centre chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been saying that the possibility of an alliance with the UML is almost nil. He also claims that the Maoist Centre will emerge as the country’s largest communist force after the upcoming polls.
On Thursday, chairpersons of the CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) were involved in a war of words while taking part in separate functions in the Capital.
UML Chairman Oli said Dahal had ‘stabbed him in the back’ after he elevated the latter to the position of party chair.
Likewise, Dahal, addressing a function of his own party, accused Oli of openly engaging in corruption.
These two statements on Thursday indicate that Dahal and Oli are not joining hands anytime soon. But Maoist Centre leaders say it would also be premature to rule out a broad left alliance as of now.
During the meeting of the party’s office bearers held on Wednesday, Chairman Dahal had told leaders that the possibility of an electoral alliance with the main opposition UML was slim as there was no chance of Oli realising his mistakes. The Maoist Centre has repeatedly said that the UML leadership must own up to his mistakes for there to be any chance of a left alliance.
“Our party chair had told us at Wednesday's party meeting that there was no possibility of an alliance with the UML right now,” said Girirajmani Pokharel, a deputy general secretary of the Maoist Centre. “But we cannot rule it out either.”
Many analysts suspect the Maoist Centre has been playing the ‘UML card’ (in talking up possible electoral alliance with the UML) as a bargaining tool with the Nepali Congress.
The Congress, which is struggling to apportion seats within the party and among the ruling coalition partners, is also desperate not to let the Maoist Centre forge an electoral alliance with the UML.
Party President Deuba keeps reminding Congress leaders about the drubbing the Congress suffered in the 2017 federal and provincial polls when the Maoist Centre had joined hands with the UML.
However, Maoist Centre leaders are spooked by discussions inside the Congress aimed at ensuring that the party gets to lead the government for all five years if it is in a position to do so after the polls.
The Congress has been bargaining for around 100 of the 165 direct election seats in the lower house so that it can garner near majority in the upcoming polls. The goal is to be able to form a government without the support of the Maoist Centre.
“We are concerned that should the alliance win, Congress will try to lead the next government for all five years,” said Pokharel.
After failing to finalise seat-sharing, the five-party coalition is currently focused on selecting candidates for the Proportional Representation system.
Some Maoist Centre leaders have claimed that the UML, desperate for an electoral alliance, is ready to offer the Maoists more than 70 of the 165 FPTP seats on offer.
Earlier, in the 2017 polls, the Maoist Centre had won 37 of the 59 seats allocated to the party when it had forged an electoral alliance with the UML.
But, this time, Maoist Centre Chairman Dahal has been saying that the party will become the first communist force after the upcoming November 20 federal and provincial polls.
This wish of Dahal cannot materialise if the party forges an electoral alliance with the UML, even though a communist alliance will be more natural and less confusing to the voters than the Maoist-Congress one. Such an alliance among like-minded forces would also help with vote-transfer.
Yet a broad communist alliance does appear to be a long shot. Perhaps that is why the UML is trying to ‘poach’ Maoist Centre leaders.
On Thursday, Oli welcomed Yam Bahadur Pariyar, a central member and joint in-charge of the Maoist Centre’s Chitwan district committee, into the UML.
Given the deep level of mistrust between the two communist parties, “I don’t think our party will join hands with the UML,” Maoist Centre Deputy General Secretary Matrika Yadav told the Post. “Maybe our leaders are talking of the possibility due to the UML’s desperate overtures and in order to increase our bargaining power with Congress.”