CPN (Maoist Center) on Tuesday decided to continue to be a part of Deuba government, even with the humiliation of its ministers being stripped off their portfolios. It reportedly did so to thwart the ‘conspiracies to postpone elections’. Seriously? Former deputy prime minister and senior Maoist leader Top Bahadur Rayamajhi spoke to Mahabir Paudyal and Ashok Dahal.
Your party claims the government is conspiring to postpone elections. What makes you say that?
Whether the elections will happen or not, or whether they will be postponed, is in the hands of the government. Postponing elections will never be in the interest of the nation and the people. These elections are crucial for implementing the constitution and leading the country to stability and prosperity. This is what the country desperately needs at the moment. This is why we are against any step to delay elections.
It is not hard to understand that parties in the government, Nepali Congress in particular, are nervous after the formation of left alliance. They have deliberately misinformed the people about this alliance. This kind of polarization between leftist and rightist forces is actually a good thing for the country. Past experience suggests it cannot afford to have many parties. If we were under dictatorship where political parties are banned, having more parties would be welcome. Now we are in a democratic republic. And we see every small group forming a political party.
Fewer the parties the better it will be for stability and governance. I personally believe Nepal should have a two-party system. With many parties we have only experienced instability. This is the rationale behind the left alliance but Congress has misread it. It is a mistake to see our partnership in government and leftist alliance through the same lens. These are two different things.
But how can you justify staying in the government and yet conspiring against the ruling coalition?
This is not how you should understand an electoral alliance. We had electoral alliance with various parties, including Nepali Congress, during local elections. This time we are talking about not just an electoral alliance but a broader left alliance. The fact that we are with Nepali Congress in the government does not mean we cannot form alliance with forces holding similar political beliefs.
Congress itself has been allying with RPP and Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar. We don’t object it. So why should Congress be nervous when two leftist parties work together? If Congress is really a democratic party, as it claims, it should welcome our effort to start a two- party system because this is in the country’s interest. Let the Congress have an alliance of its own with likeminded forces. We will have no problem. Instead Congress has been saying that we are conspiring to kill democracy. Just because UML and Maoist Center are together, Congress is even thinking of postponing elections. Is this democratic culture? Is it in the country’s interest?
How can you say Congress is planning to postpone elections? Have you received any credible information?
Discussions between Nepali Congress and forces close to it give us clues that the government is planning on postponing elections. You can infer it from the reactions of Nepali Congress and other leaders to the left alliance. They are projecting us as if we are going to establish communist rule, as in North Korea.
As we suspect the government is trying to postpone elections, we have decided not to stay out of government. We joined this government only to hold provincial and parliament elections on specified dates.
But how will you effectively oppose the suspected plot against elections when all Maoist ministers have been relieved of their portfolios?
First, the step of making our colleagues redundant as ‘ministers without portfolios’ is against the understanding Congress and Maoist Center had reached while forming the government. It violates election code of conduct, it is anti-democratic and against political norms and values. This gives us another reason to suspect the government is not committed to holding elections on set dates. Some may ask why Maoist ministers don’t resign even after this humiliation. But our presence in government is important to thwart all conspiracies against timely elections. If the prime minister is committed to holding the elections on said dates, if he guarantees that he won’t postpone polls at any cost and if our presence in government makes it difficult for him to take the election process forward, our ministers have no interest in retaining their ‘minister without portfolio’ status. We hope that we are wrong, but right now we strongly suspect Congress is actively working to put off elections.
After Baburam Bhattarai quit the leftist alliance, many have started to question its longevity.
Political parties in Nepal split and unite within no time. But we forged this alliance not for some petty political interest. It is for the larger goal of stability and national development. When there is a new political experiment, people have doubts. When we waged a war against monarchy, many said this would be impossible to win. But we are a republic today. When the Constituent Assembly was elected to promulgate the constitution, many said it would fail. But today we have a constitution and with successful local elections we have formally started on constitution implementation.
It is our conclusion that the country cannot afford to have many parties at this stage. This is why we are allying with like-minded forces. People have repeatedly seen communist parties split. This time we have shown that these parties can also unite for broader national interest.
Yes, there will be differences in the alliance. For instance, when two big parties become one, the question of electoral seat allocation may be raised. There will be many claimants. But I am confident that this alliance will tide over such differences and will last and achieve its goal of national stability, development and prosperity. There is a realization in UML and Maoist Center that the two parties from now on must commit themselves to the country, people, national development and prosperity. We all realize that with the kind of electoral system we have, it is hard for any party to win enough seats to form a stable government. We cannot afford to continue with a system whereby no government can last more than nine months. We have already suffered enough because of this. We are mired in corruption and bad governance. It is to put an end to this that we have come together. Neither UML nor Maoist Center can backtrack from this noble cause.
But many see this alliance as a plot to capture state power.
Yes, our detractors say so, but this is misreading of our intent. If staying in power was the only objective of our party, we would be comfortable with the status quo. After all, we were the catalyst of the current coalition government. We led the government with Nepali Congress as our major partner. We were in the government led by CPN-UML as well. Even in the upcoming election we are going to emerge as a significant force. So if satta (state power) was only our interest, we would root for the status quo. But this is not our goal. We are committed to stability and good governance. To think of this alliance as a step towards totalitarian or authoritarian rule, as Congress leaders have been saying, is the result of political immaturity and ignorance.
What is the guarantee that left alliance will result in greater stability?
You can question our commitment when we in the future form government and cannot deliver. Then this polarization will also become irrelevant. You can ask whether this alliance will bring stability when the alliance wins two-thirds majority, forms the government and yet fails to deliver. But to dismiss it as a move towards authoritarian rule even without testing us is both illogical and immature. A stable government, whether led by Nepali Congress or the left alliance, is the need of the hour.
You have in the past worked closely with Baburam Bhattarai. Why do you think did he quit the alliance?
Baburam Bhattarai is a rare figure in Nepali politics. He is intelligent, knowledgeable and studious. In a way Bhattarai is a repository of knowledge and wisdom. From politics to history to social affairs to science and technology to international affairs to culture and contemporary affairs, there is nothing Bhattarai does not know. He is an asset of national politics. Personally I am proud of him and honor his wisdom. But sadly, he lacks capacity to convert his wisdom into proper plans and to effectively lead a political organization.
I was extremely happy when he joined the leftist alliance. But it didn’t take a week for him to demonstrate his unstable character. He may have had issues but they could have been sorted out amicably. He should have shown some patience. The left alliance had provided him great opportunity to prove his leadership. He failed to capitalize on it.
But how can he stay in the alliance when you cannot even give him a ticket from a constituency where he has a fair chance of winning?
Why must he contest only from Gorkha? A national leader should be ready to contest election from anywhere in the country. He made the decision to join the alliance in a hurry and he quit it as hurriedly. First, he declared he would contest election under the electoral symbol of ‘sun’. Maoist Center and UML had agreed to divide the constituencies in 60-40 ratio. The two constituencies in Gorkha were given to Maoist Center under this allocation. In that case, he should have been ready to contest election under ‘hammer and sickle’ symbol. It would be natural as well for he was a top leader of the Maoist party in the recent past. UML cadres would also be voting for him. But he needed the electoral constituency in Gorkha by hook or by crook and he insisted on ‘sun’ as electoral symbol as well.
Then he decided to fight election with ‘eye’ symbol. Someone who had declared that he would contest under ‘sun’ symbol could have naturally agreed to contest under ‘sickle and hammer’. But no. Now I hear that he is considering fighting election with the ‘tree’ of Nepali Congress. I wonder why a person of such intellect is so fickle.
We still have to sit with him and sort out issues. We will do everything to bring Baburam Bhattarai back into the alliance.