TOPICS: Maoists are using pressure tactics

Prime Minister and Maoist chairman Prachanda’s frequent threats that his party may walk out of the government and his talk of the possible need for ‘the people to take up arms again’ have sent ripples in the national political landscape. In the international arena too, this has raised a serious question on Maoist commitment to democratic polity. The PM has pointed his gun at the main opposition NC for non-cooperation. But his words of threat merely seem to be a clever ploy to cling to power, particularly in the wake of NC president G P Koirala’s new initiative to form a democratic alliance to counter the Maoist highhandedness.

Prachanda’s threat is the outcome of his ignorance about political and democratic norms. Having emerged as the largest political force following the CA polls, the Maoists seem to harbour the false notion that functioning of the government would be impossible without them. Granted that any attempt to marginalise and corner the Maoists might provoke them to return to their old ways, which will eventually obstruct the peace process. But Maoists must uphold democratic principles if they want to continue to remain in power.

Prachanda’s threat might have been aimed at pacifying the growing pressure from the hardliners within his own party, especially the faction led by Mohan Baidya ‘Kiran’, who has advocated the political line of Janaganatantra (People’s Republic). Other political parties had criticised the Maoist slogan of Janaganatantra, and the party has now adopted a new slogan. The NC decision not to join the government and cooperate, especially on PLA-NA integration issue, has put the Maoists into trouble. The refusal of the NC, which enjoys far greater international support and credibility, has made things more difficult for the Maoists, as far as wide international support and successful running of the government are concerned. But the Maoist threats appear to be mere pressure tactics desgined to force NC to join or support the government. Prachanda’s threat to quit the government is also out of the frustration of not being able to deliver as the Maoists promised during the election. But given the limited resources of the country, present political equation, coalition government and international situation, the Maoist-led government has failed to show a good performance.

Prachanda and his party have also acted in a manner which has led many to doubt their commitments to democracy. If the Maoists want to do well in government, it is necessary for them to take enough measures to remove these doubts. The failure to settle army integration issue so far has drawn flak not only from the PLA members stationed in the UN-monitored camps but also from a large section of the Maoist leadership. Similarly, the CPN-UML and the MJF have, to some extent, controlled Maoists’ undemocratic and authoritarian behaviour. The first 100 days of the government were not impressive. Whether the Maoist-led government will do better in the days to come remains to be seen.