It was sudden. Nobody realised that it can happen or will happen. Three Communist parties including Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) announced that they will contest forthcoming provincial and parliamentary elections together. They will also work towards unification of Communist parties into a single united party. The party of Dahal ‘Prachanda’ is sharing power with the Nepali Congress (NC). The recent development is a major setback to NC.
The provincial and parliamentary elections are going to take place on November 26 and December 7 respectively. Communist Party of Nepal (MC), the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxists Leninists) and Naya Shakti Party (NSP) will be contesting elections together. The first two parties have a strong presence across Nepal. Baburam Bhattarai, a leader of the NSP will give an intellectual strength to the left alliance.
Bhattarai is a former prime minister of Nepal. He studied in Delhi. He played a significant role during the Maoist insurgency and convinced the leadership to give up armed struggle and join democratic process.
Nepal is witnessing political instability for some time. The present regime of NC and CPN (MC) came into power in August 2016 when they formed an alliance. Prachanda was sworn in as Prime Minister. They had an understanding that he will quit from the post of PM after nine months and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba will take over as PM. It was believed that India played an important role in bringing
Prachanda and NC together. India was not happy with earlier PM KP Sharma Oli. Serious differences between two countries emerged during Oli’s regime.
Nepal’s PM Deuba visited India in August. His comment made in a joint press conference along with Indian PM Narendra Modi was criticised in Nepal. He had said that he would ‘continue to push for’ amending the Constitution. He was criticised even by his ruling partner CPN (MC). The contention of the criticism was amending Constitution is a purely internal matter of Nepal and Deuba should not have made such a statement in front of Modi. Nepal’s new constitution was promulgated in September 2015. Initially, India was for the postponement of promulgation of the new Constitution and then for the amendment to fulfil Madhesi people’s demand. Subsequently, there was an economic blockade and Nepalis suffered. The popularity of Modi in Nepal has gone down significantly following blockade. Indian PM is expected to visit Nepal soon to lay the foundation of 900 MW Arun III hydro projects. It will be his third visit to Nepal since he became PM.
The proximity between Nepal and China is growing over the years and it is a matter of concern for India. They became much closer after the economic blockade. The role of China in bringing three Communist parties together as alliance partners cannot be ruled out totally. India had boycotted China’s Belt and Road Initiative summit held in Beijing in May. Barring Bhutan, all other neighbouring countries of India including Nepal participated in the summit.
The forthcoming elections will be important for the Nepal. The consolidation of left parties will help them perform better in the elections. It is also a matter of concern for the NC. Over the years the NC has lost its influence and mass base. It is a centrist party. It played an important role even in India’s struggle for independence with charismatic leader BP Koirala at the helm of the party. Surely, it will be an advantage to the left alliance. These three left parties have also formed a coordination committee to work towards forming a single unified Communist Party after the elections. There are differences between these three parties but decided to come together.
Normally in any Communist party, such kind of decisions are not taken in haste or suddenly. The pros and cons are discussed in length within the party before any decision is taken. In the recently held local body elections, CPN (UML) performed much better in the Terai region adjoining India was relatively poor. CPN (MC) performed relatively better in the Terai. Their coming together will get more seats to the left alliance.
The presence of Baburam Bhattarai will influence intellectual and urban class.
In the changed scenario, NC has to look for new friends. They will also form alliances with Madhesi parties. Interestingly, the leaders of all three left parties are former PMs. There are a couple of other Communist parties but they are too weak to influence the outcome. The forthcoming elections will be interesting to watch.