Despite the efforts of Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, to avert a split in the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) [UCPN (M)], the inevitable happened in June 2012. The hardline faction led by Mohan Baidya ‘Kiran’ separated from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) (CPN-M). This commentary attempts to answer the following questions: will this split further impede the political consensus or help build a coalition? How will this affect the political dynamics within Nepal?
Political Parties in Nepal: The “Split” Dynamics and its Implications
The breaking up of political parties in Nepal is a regular occurrence as most of the active political parties in Nepal today split from an earlier group or party. The Maoist split was foreseeable as drifts among the party leadership became evident with the end of the people’s war and participation of the Maoists in the country’s democratic process. As Baidya himself put it, “the separation happened according to the Marxist philosophy of unity, struggle, transformation and split,” implying that the split was a natural process (Telegraph Nepal, 30 June 2012).
Will the Split affect the Peace Process?
The split has three major implications for the UCPN-M. First, it has seriously undermined Prachanda’s political ambition of becoming Nepal’s first directly elected President. The dissolution of the Constituent Assembly had merely delayed this ambition, but the split has challenged it beyond alteration. Second, the split has caused disillusionment among the neutral party cadres with prospects of rifts emerging at the family level. In many reported incidents, while the wife has joined the new party, the husband continues to be in the parent party. This change in party membership is primarily based on the difference in the ideological orientation of the two parties. Third, there have also been reports of clashes between the supporters of the Baidya faction and the moderates amongst the former combatants of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The demand made for the division of the common property of the party by CPN-M may further create complications for the Maoist leadership.
The split, however, is likely to favour both the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) (CPN-UML) as it divides the electoral base of the Maoist party. During the 2008 CA elections, the UCPN-M emerged with a ‘plurality of votes’ which may not be repeated in the November elections, if they occur. In addition, around one-third (45 of the 149 central committee members) of the senior members, along with some sister wings of the UCPN-M have moved on to the new party. As such, the split undermines the ruling party both organisationally and electorally, much to the benefit of the opposition.
The immediate demand put forward by the CPN-M upon its separation from the UCPN-M has been the organisation of a round-table conference for the drafting of the constitution. This conference, according to Baidya, should be attended by all stakeholders and not merely the four major parties, who have come to dominate the peace process. Although, this demand promises to benefit the country at large, given the plurality of parties present in the country along with the difficulty of achieving consensus on establishing a national unity government, it remains difficult to achieve.
With the split, and with the decision of the CPN-M to join the NC and the CPN-UML in street protests against the ruling party, it is hoped there could be fast-tracking of the constitution process. However, given the ideological differences that exist between all three parties, the peace process with a new constitution as its major plank is set to be postponed further. While the split appeared to give a positive push to the peace process, the political realities in existence make such a possibility unattainable.
Perhaps, the worst fallout of the split could be an armed revolt initiated by the CPN-M. This resonates in the statement by Baidya, where he hinted at the possibility of turning the ‘crisis into a revolution’. Moreover, the allegations raised by UML member Madhav Kumar Nepal about the hidden arms and ammunitions of the PLA being used by the new party adds further weight to this possibility. Despite the agreement on integration, rehabilitation and retirement of former combatants being sealed, chances of its implementation remain weak as a section within the PLA resent the same; a section also adheres to the radical philosophy of the CPN-M.
Analysing the above, three points emerge. First, until the CPN-M registers as a party, the electoral dynamics in favour of the Maoists are not bound to change. As a result, the NC and the UML may also not benefit from the split either. Second, the onset of war fatigue also means Baidya will have an uphill task trying to influence local masses for an armed revolt. At best sporadic incidents may occur. Third, the fracturing of political parties is a common phenomenon in Nepal. Past experiences show that these are temporary and the split factions tend to return to the fold of the parent party.
Perhaps, the current split has delayed the transition of Nepal to a democratic republic.