Peacetime poker

In the radically changed political context, the CPN-Maoist needs to adapt itself swiftly from its wartime mindset and apparatus to the competitive politics of peacetime. This calls for considerable changes in its organisational structure, as well as policies and strategies, along with other important adjustments to meet the demands of the peace accord and the challenges of the upcoming constituent assembly (CA) elections, and beyond. Indeed, with probably the shortest central committee (CC) meeting in its history (Nov. 12), the party of the “People’s War” has set in motion this process of transformation. It formed two task forces — one under Ram Bahadur Thapa (Badal) to suggest structural changes, provide inputs on the implementation of the November 8 understanding, and recommend names to represent the party in the interim legislature and interim government; and the other under Nanda Kishor Pun (Pasang) will work for stationing the Maoist soldiers in temporary camps and managing arms.

This is yet another sign in the political firmament of the things moving in the right direction — to institutionalise peace and pluralistic democracy. The CC concluded that the CPN-Maoist has “successfully experimented its new ideas”. All this involves the CPN-Maoist’s internal adjustment enabling it to play a positive role in national politics. In this context, what is particularly important is the CC’s stress on the “historic necessity of a new polarisation and front-forming between republicans of both the Left and the non-Left camps”. All the parties are unlikely to agree totally on all the important issues facing the upcoming constituent assembly. So they need to band together for the CA polls under one or more of the key planks. Similarly, those who want to retain “ceremonial” monarchy may form a front as everybody is free to ask for vote for his or her agenda.

Every political party must make clear its stand on principal issues, such as monarchy v republic, secular v Hindu state, reservations v equality, and federalism v unitary polity. Also pressing is the need to ensure that a party does not seek the people’s support on one agenda and vote in the CA for the opposite one because it would amount to a distortion of the people’s mandate. Prachanda has given an idea of how the Maoists want to go about seeking political alignments in the days ahead. Likely, they would float the idea of unification with parties if the conditions look ripe (e.g. with a faction of Janamorcha) and strengthen the concept of a front with others, Left or non-Left. In his view, such unity is necessary for the next 15 to 20 years because of domestic and international factors. Neither the Left nor the non-Left is in a position to build a new Nepal alone. Whether Prachanda’s concept will be realised, only time will tell. But it seems to be a good idea for parties with similar views to join hands at least until the CA polls, as it would facilitate accurate reflection of popular choice in terms of seats in the CA for the 200-plus first-past-the-post seats.