Lack of ideological debate responsible
The disintegration appeared faster than expected in the Nepal Communist Party due to lack of ideological debate in the party. In its absence, self-serving motives came to the fore. The vision, the mission and the goals were not addressed as these took a back stage. In the absence of ideological discussion, nepotism, favouritism and groupies raised their ugly heads
The verdict of the Supreme Court in favour of the writ petition filed by senior communist leader Rishi Raj Kattel has led to the pre-mature death of the Nepal Communist Party.
The verdict has cancelled its registration, leading to the emergence of the Nepal Communist Party UML and Maoists Centrevirtually from nowhere in their former guises. The defectors of either parties now have to get under the umbrella of their respective parties or face expulsion.
The 21st century has been acknowledged as an era of democracy. For democracy to flourish, the political parties assume a spinal role. Political parties are so indispensable for running the state that even totalitarian regimes cannot do without them even if it is solitary in existence.
Nepal could not swim against this universal tide.
Accordingly, the first political party to make its mark in Nepal was the Rastriya Praja Parishad, established in 1936 during the times of the tyrannical Rana regime.
It now exists in a rather passive state. It was followed by the emergence of two parties, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal, in quick succession. Both of them were created in the aftermath of the banishment of the political leaders by the then Rana regime in Nepal.
The communist parties mushroomed in the post sixties in Nepal through disintegration of the original communist party. They were less known during the Panchayat period as the political parties were then banned. But they surfaced in the political scene after the restoration of multi-party democracy in 1990 in the aftermath of the People's Movement.
The monarchy-backed Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) also came out of its political cocoon after this movement. Whilst the Nepali Congress and the communist party dominated the political scene following the restoration of democracy, Madhes-based parties also came into existence after the transformation of Nepal into a republican state.
It was brought about by the movement launched by the parliamentary and rebelling Maoist Communist Party against the monarchy.
As a result, the 240-year-old monarchy was shown the exit, and the constitution was framed by an elected Constituent Assembly.
Now, Nepal boasts of 121 political parties from the three earlier ones. Some of them are elite, mass and movement-based like the Nepali Congress. Others are mass, movement and ethnic-based like the Samajbadi Party.
There are yet others which are cadre and movement-based like the Nepal Communist Party, UML and the Maoists. Again there are traditional forces like the RPP which supports the ousted monarchy.
The integration and disintegration of these parties have almost assumed a routine in Nepal. Firstly, the UML broke into two factions.
But these parties integrated again after suffering a huge loss in the 1999 election. The Nepali Congress also splintered into two parts.
It again welcomed the dissenting group into its fold. Now, the Nepal Communist Party, UML is just a spark away from a likely disintegration.
In the local election held under the New Constitution in 2018, Nepal Communist Party, UML bagged the largest numbers of seats riding on the crest of supporting popular agenda like the 2015 Nepal blockade.
The Nepali Congress followed as the distant second with the Maoists lagging streets behind. The Maoists had no other alternate than cobbling with one of these two parties. It eventually decided to tie the political knot with the UML and merge into the Nepal Communist Party.
The integration of the UML and the Maoists in the Nepal Communist Party was thus the outcome of immediate electoral gains despite having different ideological backgrounds.
Whilst the UML believed in People's Multiparty Democracy, the Maoists subscribed to New People's Democracy.
It was also portrayed as an unholy alliance in some political quarters. This honeymoon naturally did not last long with factional fights gathering storm between Prime Minister Oli and Puspa Kamal Dahal-led groups.
It led Oli to dissolve the Parliament. A political crack tore through the heart of the communist party, leading to its physical disintegration though united on paper. The Supreme Court reinstated the parliament, declaring the dissolution unconstitutional.
The Election Commission maintained a dead silence instead of declaring the authority of one of the dissenting groups, creating doubts on its very existence.
The integration and disintegration of the parties generally stems from ideological considerations. Unfortunately, in Nepal short electoral gains and the absence of meaningful ideological debate have been responsible for this sorry state of affairs. When the Conservatives integrated with the Unionists the UK in 1912, it was because both the parties shared similar views about protectionism.
The Indian Congress split into the New and Old Congress in 1969 because of Indira Gandhi's left leaning policies like bank nationalisation of banks while the supporters of the Old Congress promoted right wing policies.
The disintegration appeared faster than expected in the Nepal Communist Party due to lack of ideological debate in the party. In its absence, self-serving motives came to the fore.
The vision, the mission and the goals were not addressed as these took a back stage. In the absence of ideological discussion, nepotism, favouritism and groupies raised their ugly heads. Institutionalisation of the parties was conspicuous by its absence . As a result, good governance, which is the invariable expectation of the people, gave way to corruption.
This tendency is widespread in all the political parties in Nepal. Against this backdrop, ideological debate should form the spine for the smooth functioning of political parties in the future.
A version of this article appears in the print on March 18, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.