October 8, 2017 07:33 AM NPT
KATHMANDU, OCT 8: When the left-wing parties, aided by the powerful show of the then CPN Maoist, now the CPN (Maoist Center), a new entrant in the mainstream politics, clinched near two-thirds majority in the first Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in 2008, it came as a dream come true for Nepal’s left support base and longtime advocates of left unity.
The reasons were obvious. Despite their long existence in Nepali politics, leftwing forces in Nepal were seldom in a position to lead the government. No communist leader except UML’s Manmohan Adhikari have had the chance to lead the government.
The success of the first CA changed everything. It did not only put the left-wing forces in a comfortable position to lead the government but also gave a strong reason to the longtime advocates of left unity to pursue their cause.
The advocates of left unity had inched much closer in realizing their dream of forming an indomitable left alliance by mediating a power sharing deal between the CPN (Maoist Center) and UML following the first CA.
But it did not last longer due to numerous reasons, mainly due to the tussle between the then Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s government and Nepal Army, Dahal’s ego and personal rivalry with other communist leaders both inside and outside his party.
Efforts to unite left faced a major roadblock with the emergence of Nepali Congress as the largest party in the second CA followed by a vertical split in the CPN Maoist.
The grand left alliance comprising UML, CPN (Maoist Center) and Naya Shakti Nepal announced earlier this week should be seen as the continuation of the post 2008 CA elections efforts to bring the left parties together.
Local poll results change everything
The issue of unifying left forces kept coming on the table of CPN-UML and Maoist Center without much progress. Though cross party leaders from both UML and Maoist Center never really gave up on their efforts, they had not found a strong reason for left unity. The results of the local elections came as that reason. The local polls had once again shifted the balance of power to the left. Of the 753 local units in the country, UML and Maoist Center had respectively own 294 and 105 seats.
UML and Maoist Center leaders were quick to see that a unified left would put them in a comfortable position to get majority in the upcoming provincial and parliamentary elections scheduled for November 26 and December 7.
In addition to that, both UML and Maoist Center saw greater benefits to secure their short-term and long-term interest. For UML, this came as an opportune moment to break the alliance between NC and Maoist Center. If the alliance succeeds in repeating the success of the local polls in the upcoming elections, it would ensure a stable government for the next five years.
The Maoist Center, on the other hand, saw it as an opportunity for a safe landing. Though the party had somehow managed to win inover 100 units in the local polls, leaders of Maoist Center were increasingly concerned with the party’s shrinking space.
With 40 percent stake in the unified party, Maoist Center Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal will continue to remain a kingmaker in Nepali politics.
Game changing potential
The left alliance, if it achieves the expected success in the upcoming polls, could significantly alter the balance of power in Kathmandu. If the result of the local poll is anything to go by, the alliance will dominate power at least for five years and can consolidate further power by bringing fringe communist parties on board.
This could be instrumental in bringing about a much-needed opportunity to usher Nepal into an era of political stability and economic prosperity.
Despite its game-changing potential, things do not look as smooth for the left alliance as it may appear. Cross party leaders said the announcement of unification is an important step forward but it is still too early to say whether it will materialize. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the alliance will produce expected results.
“Much will depend on how well we fare in the upcoming elections and the power sharing deal that follows,” said Mani Thapa, a Maoist Center leader.
UML leader Yogesh Bhattarai said that the alliance faces some obvious challenges but insisted that the challenges are worth it.
“We have overcome the biggest challenge by forging the alliance. If everything goes well, it will be far easier to overcome the remaining challenges,” said Bhattarai.