The Maoist government has failed to govern the country. Prime Minister Prachanda knows this well and is on record saying that the governmentâ€™s performance has been dismal. It is rather amusing to see ministers criticising their own government as if they are members of the opposition. The Maoist leadership is caught between the need for impartiality and efficiency in governance and the desire to â€œcapture the stateâ€. Maoists are very clear that ideology sustained by money and guns constitutes the essence of power.
In this power equation money is needed to maintain and strengthen the party organisation and to keep the cadres reasonably satisfied. There is the YCL, which is basically a full time para-military force to be used to reinforce the presence of the party among the people whenever strong arm tactics are needed.
But a standing force of this type requires a lot of resources for its normal maintenance. To meet this, the Maoist leadership has allowed its members to engage in activities of soft extortion including threat and intimidation against professionals and business people across the country. For instance, it is common knowledge that contractors that bid for government contracts in different ministries have to regularly meet the financial demands of the Maoist cadres if they want to take part in the process. Over time the willingness of the leadership to turn a blind eye to such illegal activities reinforces a culture where politics becomes a new form of business, a novel way of making money and projecting oneâ€™s influence in the society. Politics takes the form of an economic enterprise based on threat and intimidation.
When there is opposition to this trend by the press the Maoistsâ€™ instinct is to silence them so that unpleasant issues are not raised before the people. In this process scores of journalists have lost their lives and even organised media companies have received threats that they should not push the idea of press freedom too far. Worst of all, even court cases against individuals who have been charged with murder of journalists have been withdrawn while others have been promoted in the political hierarchy. The Maoist aim of â€œcapturing the stateâ€ has given rise to corruption both at the central and the local level.
Using the central governmental apparatus for generating resources without making it too obvious to the opposition or the general public goes hand in hand with the strong arm tactics of cadres at the local level. Any surplus over and above the normal maintenance requirements
of the party are then invested to make provision for the future.
Recently the government allocated over ten million rupees to a private hospital which is widely
considered as an investment of the Maoist party. Use of political power to collect money, therefore, goes together with investments in normal business enterprise as a way of building the financial base for the future. In this process, the party loses its political character while becoming increasingly immersed in money making activities by whatever means possible, both legal and illegal.
When political ideology and its offshoot, political militancy, becomes a form of business and a way of making money it loses its moral strength and is bound to lose its bonding with the common people. It was this particular characteristic of the parliamentary era that became the major cause for peopleâ€™s dissatisfaction leading to a loss of trust and confidence in the system. The political capital that political parties had garnered during the first Peopleâ€™s Movement evaporated rapidly when people started sensing that their faith has been used to fatten a few while the larger interest was ignored. In a somewhat different manner the same phenomena is taking place in the present government.
The rhetoric is full of new zeal and ardour for democracy and the rights of the masses. However, the essence is focused on â€œcapturing state powerâ€ so there is no competition. As a part of this process, amassing huge financial resources to be used, when needed, for both threat and persuasion invariably takes a business dimension. Gradually what is emerging is a new class, a privileged class that can manage to evade the law since it belongs to the ruling party in power. Ironically, the feudalism of the much decried royal era has given way to a new form of party feudalism where even the idea of legal equality increasingly becomes a fiction.
To equate the power ambition of a party with national interest is to pave way to authoritarian governance irrespective of the ideological garb in which it is presented. In the coming days and months the Maoist tendency to ignore the law on the implicit assumption that partyâ€™s ambition for power is the ultimate expression of national interest must be resisted by non-Maoist parties if democracy and a democratic constitution is to be the road map of the future.
Dr. Lohani is co-chairman, Rastriya Janasakti Party