Finally! the Maoists graduate to a ‘normal’ Nepali political party and split

It’s been coming for so long. The Maoists have copied all the other political parties and split into patronage parties. Does this mean that they are once and for all a real political party?

Nepal’s Maoists split; Kiran faction walks away

After a protracted internal party struggle, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) finally split on Monday evening with senior vice-chairman Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’ walking away with several other senior leaders to form another party, the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist). The decision was taken at taken at the end of a three-day national gathering of cadres associated with the ‘Kiran’ faction.

The new party has termed the two key decisions of the Prachanda-led Maoist party — accepting the “democratic republic” line in 2005 (which enabled collaboration with democratic parties); and signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006 — as major mistakes. In a document presented at the gathering, Mr Kiran said, “The objective circumstances are favourable for a revolution. We should now create the subjective circumstances for revolution.”

Senior leaders who have sided with Mr Kiran to set up a new party include many stalwarts of the Maoist movement — Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’, C P Gajurel, Dev Gurung and Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplab’. The new party will have a 44-member central committee; its new leadership structure is yet to be decided.

Internecine conflict:

There had been serious divisions within the party ever since the Maoists decided to enter the peace process (and subsequently open politics); and fight for a ‘democratic republic’ in 2005-06. Mr Kiran and Mr Gajurel were in Indian prisons when the decision was taken, and had reservations about it. They claimed that while ‘democratic republic’ was a tactical goal, the ultimate aim must remain a ‘people’s federal republic’ or ‘people’s democracy’. This was seen by opponents as a Maoist plank of establishing a one-party state.

This tension marked the initial years of the peace process, when the radical faction insisted on the declaration of a republic and a fully proportional representation-based electoral system for the Constituent Assembly (CA) polls. This led to the Maoist withdrawal from the interim government in 2007, and delayed CA polls. During Mr Prachanda’s stint as Prime Minister, he remained under pressure from his dogmatic colleagues to push ‘radical’ changes — seen as the trigger for his attempt to dismiss the then army chief in 2009, which ultimately led to the fall of the Maoist-led government.

While the Maoists were out of government between 2009 and 2011, Mr Kiran and his colleagues demanded that the party adopt the line of ‘revolt’ instead of ‘peace and constitution’, which was being advocated by Dr Baburam Bhattarai. Chairman Prachanda sided with Dr Bhattarai at a key central committee meeting in April 2011.

Though Mr. Kiran supported Dr. Bhattarai’s nomination as the PM candidate in August 2011, differences deepened between the ‘establishment’ and ‘dissident’ factions soon after. The hardliners opposed the four-point agreement signed between the Maoists and the Madhesi parties leading to government formation. The Maoists then took several steps with regard to the peace process against the wishes of the Kiran faction. This included handing over keys of arms containers, and regrouping fighters into those who wished to opt for integration and those opting for retirement. On April 10 this year, following tensions among combatants, the government decided to hand over the cantonments to the Nepal Army. Mr Kiran termed the entire process as “surrender and disarmament”.

Another key difference has been the position regarding the role of India. While Mr Prachanda and Dr. Bhattarai termed the Indian role in the peace process as ‘constructive’ and engaged with New Delhi at different levels, Mr Kiran raised the issue of “protecting national independence”; accused the Maoist-led government of “surrendering”; demanded its resignation.

When asked about the split’s implications, Sudheer Sharma, editor-in-chief of Nepal’s largest daily Kantipur, told The Hindu, “The Maoist were the largest party, and this split will definitely weaken them. If the new party chooses to adopt a violent path, it will lead to instability. Even if it does not take to violence, it will adopt a radical line in the name of nationalism or ‘anti-Indianism.’”

From our favourite Madheshi commentator, Prashant Jha at the Hindu >

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