In Nepal, then and now

October 09, 2017 12:00 am | Updated 03:34 am IST

Understanding the churning among the Left parties

Political alignments and realignments in Nepal do not surprise observers. After all, politics overdetermines public life in the country. Even then, very few must have anticipated the recent announcement by the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) to form an electoral coalition with the Naya Shakti Party, and their decision to merge.

The closest event to this political quake happened more than a decade ago, when the mainstream political parties formed a Seven Party Alliance that broached peace with the-then insurgent Maoists, which later led to a coalition of forces against the monarchy, elections to a new Constituent Assembly, and Nepal becoming a republic. Prashant Jha’s book, Battles of the New Republic, traces this recent history.

The prospect of a Left alliance between the UML and the Maoists should ideally not be such a surprise but for the fact that these parties have been rivals for decades, having more than just ideological differences. But both these parties have adapted to the democratic mainstream and have given up on their radical aims in many ways. The UML is more or less a party based on patronage, retaining a Leninist structure and professing Nepali nationalism (unitarism) and welfarism. Many of the former radical ideologues and leaders of the Maoist-Centre have left the party.

An exhaustive narrative on the evolution of the Maoists into a radical force, that ultimately played an important role in the transformation of Nepal from a monarchy to a constitutional republic, is provided by Aditya Adhikari in The Bullet and the Ballot Box .

The third party in the alliance, the NSP, is led by former Maoist and ex-prime minister Baburam Bhattarai, whose book, The Nature of Underdevelopment and Regional Structure of Nepal , explains the country’s political economy from a leftist perspective and lays the case for a radical programme of transformation. Mr. Bhattarai led the call for the formation of a Constituent Assembly and is credited with the conclusion of the peace process that mainstreamed the Maoists.

To understand fully the current churning among the Left in Nepal, one has to look at the recurring political changes in the country since the end of “Ranacracy”, the century-long rule by feudal aristocrats. Martin Hoftun et al. trace the rise and challenges faced by democratic forces from 1950 to 1990 in People, Politics and Ideology, which is a compelling read.

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