Maoists intensify negotiations to form a ‘socialist front’They say it’s likely the front would be announced within a few days, aiming to resolve all the remaining tasks of the peace process.
Prime Minister and CPN (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Saturday said that a ‘socialist front’ would soon be formed, one that will lay a strong foundation for the unification of the country’s communist forces.
The motive of the socialist front, according to Maoist leaders, is to develop a common understanding among the socialist forces and take the delayed peace process to a logical conclusion.
“The communist parties, who followed the Maoist line, are holding discussions. Our common concern is to resolve all the remaining tasks of the peace process and transitional justice through truth and reconciliation,” Dahal said at the meeting of the party’s Central Madhesh Province Coordination Committee on Saturday. “A socialist front will be formed within a few days.”
However, Dahal, who is engaging in extensive discussions with at least nine Maoist splinter groups almost every day, didn’t mention when the front would be announced.
Three parties in the ruling coalition—Maoist Centre, Janata Samajbadi Party and CPN (Unified Socialist)—had extensively discussed and worked to form a socialist front even before the November 20 polls but that could not materialise at the time.
But now the issue has come to the forefront again with the Supreme Court’s latest move to register the writ petition against the Maoist Centre chair and Prime Minister Dahal which was rejected by the apex court administration.
Leaders said Maoist Centre is holding talks with other like-minded parties in different modalities. The party also aims to unify those parties. Maoist leaders say they want to form a broader front with the parties that may not be ready to merge into the Maoist party.
Nepal Samajbadi Party, led by former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, is almost certain to merge with the Maoist Centre as it is closely working with the Dahal-led party of late. The Bhattarai-led party even contested the November elections under the Maoist Centre’s election symbol.
A leader of the Nepal Samajbadi Party said both the unification process and formation of the socialist front have been delayed due to the prime minister’s busy schedule.
“We discussed the formation of the socialist front before the polls,” said Vijay Kumar Poudel, deputy general secretary of Unified Socialist. “Now we are trying to announce it at the earliest.”
He said the front would most probably be announced after the Cabinet expansion.
Before expanding his cabinet, Prime Minister Dahal has been preparing to seek a vote of confidence following the election of the Vice President which is scheduled for March 17.
All three parties working for the socialist front are desperate to show their unified front mainly because of their diminishing strength apparent in the November 20 polls.
The CPN (Maoist Centre) was reduced to 32 seats in the latest polls, down from 54 in the 2017 polls. Meanwhile, the JSP, which had won 17 seats in the previous election, could manage only 12 now. The CPN (Unified Socialist), a splinter party of the CPN-UML which had some 24 lawmakers, has been making do with only 10 now. More humiliatingly, the party couldn’t even become a national party in the Parliament as it failed to secure three percent of the total valid votes under the Proportional Representation system.
Given this background, it appears natural that the parties are harping on forming an alliance of ‘like-minded’ forces.
“It is long ago that our party decided to remain open for forging alliances or fronts and even unite with like-minded forces,” said Manish Suman, spokesperson of JSP. “Socialist front can be one of its outcomes.”
The meeting of the political committee of JSP held on January 2 and 3 had decided to form a talks team led by Rajendra Shrestha to hold discussions with like-minded forces for a working alliance, forming fronts or even going for party unity.
Maoist Centre leaders said they are negotiating both at the personal and task force levels to turn the longstanding concept of a social front into reality.
“Discussions are going on with the three parties and we will announce the socialist front soon,” said Krishna Bahadur Mahara, spokesperson of the Maoist Centre who leads the party’s talks team formed to negotiate with like-minded parties.
As the Nepali Congress also claims to follow the socialist ideology, questions arise about whether the party will remain on the socialist front or not.
But Maoist Centre leaders ruled out any such possibility as the Congress comes from a different background than the communist forces.
“Since Congress opts for democratic socialism and we are in favour of scientific socialism, I don’t think Congress will join our front. But we can work together on some specific issues,” said Giriraj Mani Pokhrel, deputy general secretary of Maoist Centre who is also a member of the party’s talks team. “The front will be formed with an objective to give a new direction to the country’s politics.”
However, the major concern of the front’s constituents will be to take forward the delayed peace process by forging an understanding among the major parties regarding transitional justice.
According to Maoist leaders, this time they are working more seriously to see the plan through its end. While the Mahara-led talks team is continuously engaged in the negotiations, chairman Dahal and vice chair Mahara are holding discussions personally with key leaders from other parties. Barshaman Pun, Shakti Basnet and Giriraj Mani Pokhrel are members of the Mahara-led team.
“You shouldn’t be surprised if we announce the socialist front within a few days,” a leader quoted Dahal as saying at the party’s meeting on Saturday.
After the Supreme Court’s decision to continue with the writ petition against Dahal, all the Maoist splinter groups have been holding regular meetings and even issued a warning that all war-era cases must be resolved only through the truth and reconciliation commission.
The Dahal-led government has already registered a bill to amend the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Act on March 9.
“Cases related to the people’s war and people’s movement have not been addressed yet and the peace process is yet to be concluded,” Dahal said. “We have the responsibility to give a political way out to the peace process and transitional justice on the basis of their principles for which it’s essential for the socialist forces to cooperate and unite.”
Four fringe communist parties have already formed a joint front—Samajbadi Deshbhakta Morcha—on Friday. Its constituents are the Netra Bikram Chand-led Nepal Communist Party, Rishiram Kattel-led Nepal Communist Party, Bishwobhakta Dulal-led Baigyanik Samajbadi Communist Party and Karnajit Budhathoki-led CPN (Maoist Socialist). The front will have a praesidium to be led on a rotational basis. However, none of these splinter groups have any seat in the parliament.
On Saturday, Dahal said the front will develop a new basis for the unification of the communist parties. “Even within the UML, a large number of members want unity among the leftist forces. They want a revival of the erstwhile Nepal Communist Party,” Dahal said. “That voice is in favour of the revolution and communist movement. Therefore, we should take the initiative for unity.”