The churning in Nepali politics has entered a new stage with a split in the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s ideological mentor and senior leader, Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’, has walked away to form a new party. He was supported by four other major leaders, about one-third of the party’s central committee, and a segment of the former Maoist fighters who recently retired from cantonments. Kiran was in an Indian prison in 2005 when the Maoist party decided to engage with democratic parties against the monarchy, work with the Indian establishment and enter open politics. Even though it was precisely the success of this political line — advocated by Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai — that ensured Kiran’s release, the latter never felt any ownership over the process. The peace agreement was based on a quid pro quo. The Maoists were considered a legitimate force, and their key demands — of elections to a Constituent Assembly and proclamation of a republic — were accepted. In return, the rebels gave up violence and agreed to integrate and rehabilitate the combatants of the ‘People’s Liberation Army’. Kiran and his supporters felt these compromises were tantamount to surrender. They put up impossible demands, pushed the line of ‘people’s revolt’, opposed India, flirted with royalists under the garb of ‘nationalism’, and were ambivalent about a democratic constitution. This gave ammunition to conservative parties and Indian security hardliners who used Kiran’s rhetoric to paint the entire Maoist party as one seeking to ‘capture the state’. The moderate Maoist leadership was squeezed between these extremes.
The split, while unfortunate, brings an end to the artificial unity of the Maoist party and was inevitable given the wide gulf. But in the immediate context, where the Constituent Assembly has expired without delivering a constitution and the country stares at a political-constitutional vacuum, it will complicate politics. Kiran’s party is expected to join the Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) on the streets against the government. The new Maoist party has rejected elections, and kept open the option of resorting to ‘people’s revolt’ or even ‘people’s war’. Its core plank is a mix of ultra nationalism and ideological dogmatism. Its rhetoric and activities can only help the far-right forces and royalists who seek to undermine the gains of the 2005-06 people’s struggle. The need of the hour is a broad political consensus on framing a new constitution. By diverting attention from that crucial goal, Kiran and his ultra-left comrades have weakened the sacred cause of bringing progressive changes in Nepal’s state structure.