By Sankar Ray
The spectre of Pushpa Lal Shrestha seemed to have been stalking where Khagda Prasad Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka ‘Prachanda’, chairpersons of Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) were jointly planting a party unification plant called Ginkgo Biloba at the official residence the Prime Minister in Baluwatar (a plant that survived the massive devastation due to dropping of atom bombs by the US air force in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 during the World War II) on 17 May after the meeting for unification of two parties was over.
Pushpa Lal was the first general secretary of CP of Nepal, born in Calcutta on 24 April 1949. His elder brother Ganga Lal, executed by the autocratic Rana government of Nepal, told him, “Brother, take up the lamp of democracy that we light and spread its light.” Those last words inspired Pushpa Lal to plunge into the struggle for emancipation from the ‘Ranashahi’. But it was Nripen Chakraborty, then a top leader of West Bengal provincial committee of undivided CP of India – later chief minister of Tripura and a polit bureau of CPI(M) who as his mentor asked Pushpa Lal to form the CP of Nepal, the first Congress of which was held in Patna in 1954. The rest is history as the party suffered several splits and was afflicted with bitter schism.
Oli, the PM of Nepal, and Dahal signed an agreement, according to which the new unity party will be named ‘Nepal Communist Party’, whose strategy will be people’s democracy and ‘Marxism – Leninism’ ‘ideology’. It shall have a 441-member central committee; 241 from the UML and 200 from the Maoist Center. There will be a 43-member standing committee with 25 representatives from the UML and 18 from the Maoist Centre. The new party will use ‘Sun’ as its electoral symbol, the one the UML has been using for long. The two top leaders were emotionally aflame with optimism. “It’s a historical day for Nepal; it has entered into a new era of prosperity. The party unification will help Nepal in upgrading from the least developed country and will help to achieve sustainable development goals and poverty alleviation, among others,” Oli said. The Maoist chief reassured, “A new era of prosperity and good governance has started in the country. The major motive of this unification is to lead the country towards socialism and economic prosperity with social justice.”
It was symbolic that the merger was sealed on the Madan-Ashrit memorial day, the death anniversary UML’s general secretary Madan Kumar Bhandari and chief of organisational department, Jivraj Ashrit, in a road accident 25 years ago. The new party was registered at the Election Commission next day. Significantly, “Mao Zedong Thought” will not be the NCM’s philosophy, following the CP of China, which too dropped Mao Zedong Thought from its statutes at one of its recent congresses, an indication that NCP will politically follow the Beijing communists. The unification on principle was announced eight months ago and during the interregnum there had been many obstacles as the two parties had different political and strategic perceptions that created contentious issues, which are not resolved as yet. Political historian Aditya Adhikari told a foreign news agency months ago the merger would be a “rare union” between two sides with starkly different backgrounds. He authored a book “The Bullet and the Ballot Box”, narrating the history of Nepal’s Maoist struggle.
Coordinator of Naya Shakti Nepal and former PM Baburam Bhattarai slapped a question on the Maoist supremo, “Can Dahal really accept the Madan Bhandari’s way, People’s Multiparty Democracy, regretting on people’s war?’ Dr Bhattarai, once the second-in-command of the CPN (Maoist), now rechristened as CPN(MC), has already been approached by Dahal. He tweeted that Dahal should clearly spell out ‘his ideology, either people’s war or People’s Multiparty Democracy’. Adhikari’s views on the merger is “If they manage to stick together it will change the future of Nepal’s politics. But they will likely function as a coalition or two factions within a party, negotiating power-sharing,”
Nonetheless, political observers look up to the recent move as the beginning of a new era for the country’s politics that saw itself mired in a civil war in the 1990s. About 16,000 lives were lost but the battle ended 240 years of monarchy. With the merger, the political stability of the landlocked Himalayan state is stronger than ever as the NCP shall have a two-thirds majority. But there is no room for complacency as reduction of poverty is a painful hangover of monarchical rule. China has taken Nepal into the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’, the ambitious multi-billion dollar project of President Xi Ping that can help democratic Nepal build rail and road link, telecommunication, energy transmission and gas pipeline with China to diversify trade, reduce trade deficit with other countries and downsize asymmetric dependency on access to sea solely through India but these cannot be used for trafficking of girls. Sceptics warn of silently-grown ‘debt-trap’, although Oli scoffs at such pessimistic suggestions. (IPA Service)