The View From India | Realpolitik of a Maoist

Updated - March 12, 2024 07:42 am IST

Published - March 11, 2024 03:24 pm IST

Chairman of Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-UML) party Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, also known as K.P. Oli, (L) shakes hands with the chairman of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda.

Chairman of Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-UML) party Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, also known as K.P. Oli, (L) shakes hands with the chairman of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda. | Photo Credit:

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Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda does it again. Last week, the Nepal Prime Minister and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) pulled away from a coalition with the Nepali Congress, the single largest party in Parliament, and joined hands with the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) to form a new ruling coalition. Nepal is no stranger to frequent government changes. The Himalayan country has seen 11 governments since it abolished the monarchy in 2008. And Prachanda, a former Maoist guerilla, changing allies in parliamentary politics is also not new.

The Maoist Centre fought the 2022 elections in an alliance with the Nepali Congress. When the results were out, the Congress emerged as the largest party with 88 seats, while the Moist Centre finished third with 32 seats. The coalition crumbled soon after as the Congress refused Prachanda’s demand to lead the coming government. He immediately struck an alliance with the Unified Marxist-Leninist, led by former Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli. The UML has 78 seats in the current Parliament.

The ruling coalition faced its first major test in the 2023 presidential election. The Maoist Centre backed the Nepali Congress candidate Ram Chandra Poudel in the election, which upset the UML. As the UML withdrew from the alliance, Prachanda went back to his original election ally, the Congress, to hang on to power. And now, the Maoist-Congress alliance has collapsed, and Prachanda is once again talking about Left unity after rejoining hands with the UML.

In recent months, it was evident that uneasiness was setting in the Maoist-Congress alliance. Nepal is supposed to elect a new chair of the National Assembly on March 12, and the Moist-Centre wanted its candidate to be elected to the post, a demand which had rattled the Nepali Congress. Prachanda had also attacked the Congress recently over a proposal against secularism that was discussed in the party general committee. He claimed that ideological reasons forced him to switch the alliance. But Prachanda’s track record which points to his swinging coalition politics aimed at protecting his chair, suggests that realpolitik trumps his ideological considerations.

Now, both the Maoist-Centre and the UML talk about left unity. But it’s easier said than done. In 2018, both parties had merged into the united Nepal Communist Party (NCP). The plan was to create a dominant communist organisation that could dominate Nepal’s fractured polity. But the experiment was short-lived as personality clashes led to an implosion of the new entity in 2021. It was after this failed experiment, the Moists turned to the Congress. Now, the Maoists and the UML are together, but it is to be seen whether the new arrangement would last given the naked political ambitions of both leaderships.

For a detailed analysis of the new developments in Nepal, see this report by our colleague Sanjeev Satgainya in Kathmandu: Nepal’s Communist bloc | New coalition, old politics.

Return of Zardari

Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, right, administers the oath of office to Asif Ali Zardari at the Presidential Palace in Islamabad.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faez Isa, right, administers the oath of office to Asif Ali Zardari at the Presidential Palace in Islamabad.

Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), took oath as Pakistan’s 14th President on March 10, replacing Arif Alvi of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI). Zardari was the joint candidate of the ruling alliance of the PPP, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan. He defeated the PTI-backed Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) candidate, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, by a huge margin. With his election, Zardari has become the only civilian leader who has got a second term as President. He earlier served as the 11th president from 2008 to 2013 and has been a member of the National Assembly since August 2018.

Zardari, who was known as Mr. Ten Percent due to the corruption cases he faced, took control of the PPP after his wife and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in December 2007. After Imran Khan became Prime Minister, the PPP joined hands with his former rival PML-N to open a joint front against the charismatic former cricketer-turned-politician. When Mr. Khan’s government was brought down through a no-confidence vote in 2022, a PPP-PML-N coalition government was formed. After the controversial 2024 elections, Mr. Zardari again joined hands with the PML-N. As part of the new agreement, the PML-N’s Shehbaz Sharif became Prime Minister and Mr. Zardari became the coalition’s presidential candidate.

For more on Asif Ali Zardari, read this profile of the veteran politician by our colleague Kallol Bhattacherjee.

The Top Five

1. Not law, nor duty

The death of a second Indian in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed, is proof of the toll the situation is taking on Indians who have been lured into working with the Russian military, writes The Hindu in this editorial. India needs a structured, transparent and humane approach to make it clear, domestically, and to partners abroad, that Indian lives matter.

2. The quick transformation of Russia-North Korea ties

This is a partnership that has been forged amid common challenges and shared strategic objectives, write Harsh V. Pant and Pratnashree Basu.

3. Second Thomas Shoal | A symbol of defiance

Tensions are rising in the South China Sea after Chinese vessels attempted to block a Philippine mission to resupply their troops on the contested reef, writes Priyali Prakash.

4. On the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna | Explained

The JVP, one of the major opposition parties of Sri Lanka, has historically viewed India as an expansionist power seeking to colonise Sri Lanka. However, of late, the party is of the view that the reality of India as Sri Lanka’s closest neighbour and a ‘major political and economic centre’ cannot be ignored.

5. What is the historic amendment that enshrined abortion access in France’s Constitution? | Explained

In a global first, legislators passed an amendment giving women the “guaranteed freedom” to terminate their pregnancies — what does the reform entail and what is its significance? writes Aaratrika Bhaumik.

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