The eight general convention of CPN- Maoist Centre was held from December 26, 2021 to January 2, 2022 in Kathmandu. The General Convention has elected a 299 member central committee, re-electing Pusha Kamal Dahal unanimously as party’s Chair for the next five years. The Chairman presented his political documents titled “Nepali Path to Socialism in the 21st Century”. The document aims to develop a “new revolutionary thought” emphasising on cultural transformation and self-improvement within the party.
Through the instant commentary we seek to critically assess the policies proposed by the CPN- Maoist Centre speaking through its Chairman during the aforementioned conference. This commentary identifies five major concerns that require attention which are discussed here in under:
The document presented at the convention was criticized by delegates on the basis that it was incomplete, ambiguous and had failed to analyse the current political scenario which is the result of collation politics. Moreover, party cadres were dissatisfied with the party leadership due to the issues of lavish lifestyles and illicit partnerships with big contractors and businessmen. The party leadership has also been accused of losing its revolutionary zeal and disregarding practical implementation of socialism.
Party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachand) expressed his commitment to change the present narrative. According to him, the party can form a clear picture of socialist revolution on the basis of “self-criticism of the past and the objective analysis of the present” and in this behalf, he perceives the document to be a milestone. It is pertinent to note that the document recommends a bottom-up implementation approach by targeting the actual agents of transformation viz. farmers and labourers. Additionally, collaboration with the rural farmers for cultivation of crops, land reformation, legal rights, job security and prevention of their exploitation are some of the schemes stipulated in this document.
Chairman has proposed that every leader return to a village for at least 15 days a year to work in an agricultural farm or enterprise. It can be deduced that one of the objectives is to achieve self-reliance by preventing brain drain which is likely to improve the economy. Alternatively, in the event that the youth of Nepal decides to pursue opportunities aboard, it was deliberated at the general convention that their lands be leased out by the government for the purposes of generating revenue. In addition to this the document lays emphasis on integration of modern science and technological concepts with traditional know-how and expertise of the Nepali people in order to maximise returns.
Another due consideration that may be factored in is that most Nepali youth have notions about having better opportunities abroad. In order to counteract this mindset, the government may consider incentivising business opportunities for Nepali youth across various fields of business/employment.
One may argue that such initiative and collaboration may employ labor in agriculture and thereby raise the economic standard of citizens for their subsistence. However, political analyst Hari Roka is of the opinion that, the proposal is incomplete as it fails to address the immediate concerns of the farmers such as shortage of fertiliser, availability of credit, relief materials and support to farmers when affected by natural disasters.
Interestingly, CPN- Maoist Centre had come up with a similar plan nine years ago, during the Seventh General Conference at Hetauda. The party formulated a strategy to engage party leaders and workers from grass-root levels with farmers and labourers in order to generate employment, move towards self-reliance and to increase the party’s influence.However, it did not yield any significant results due to poor execution, lack of proper planning and policy paralysis. It may be argued that the current program is a replica of the programme introduced 9 years ago with the upcoming general election (2022) in mind and without much interest to benefit the target group.
Selection Process: Status of Intra Party Democracy
As far as the functioning of the party is concerned, the Chairman emphasised democratic values as guaranteed under the constitution of Nepal. Furthermore, the document prescribes internal democracy within the party thereby giving opportunity to the members to elect a new leadership for democratic transfer of power. However, the ideological fragmentation within the party members depicts otherwise.
There exist two opposing views within the party regarding the selection process. Majority of the delegates are not in the favour of holding elections because they are of the opinion that to make the party strong and united, a unanimous leadership ought to be elected. Meanwhile, dissenting voices opine that competition within the party will make the election process stronger and free of bias and counteract the existing attitude of electing members close to leaders. To this end, the Chairman emphasized reaching internal consensus among the aspirants rather than holding formal elections. Following the chairman’s statement, no dissenting voices were raised during the convention to hold an election. Democracy results from the constant dialogue between the members and leaders, lack of which is indicative of a system of authoritarian leadership. The strategy to gain power through politics of consensus and to silence the opposition voices under the pretext of ‘unity and cooperation’ have sidelined democratic values within the party.
Despite polarised ideologies within the party, the CPN- Maoist Center gave a message of proportional inclusion in the selection of central committee members.
As per the party statute, the delegates will elect a 299-member central committee and a 15-member office-bearers. Of which 145 CC are from open category. 35 percent women and 20 percent youth (under 40 years of age) of the total number of central members have been made mandatory; a move that no other political party has undertaken till date.
The Eighth National General Convention of the CPN (Maoist Center) has passed the names of 237 central members. The remaining 63 members will be nominated by the Central Committee meeting.
Below mentioned is the list of central committee members from nine different category:
- A total of 12 male members have been elected to the central committee from Khas Arya (Male) category. Three youths have been elected to the central committee in Khas Arya (Youth) category.
- A total of 24 females have been elected to the central committee from Khas Arya (Female) category. Six (females) have been elected to the central committee in Kahas Arya (Youth) category.
- From indigenous category: a total of 11 male, three male youths, 23 female and six female youth have been elected.
- From the Dalit category: six males, one male youth, 12 female and three female youth have been elected.
- From the Madheshi category: six males, one male youth, and 13 females and three female youth have been elected.
- From the Tharu category: two males, one male youth, six female and one female youth.
- From the Muslim Category: Six male, one male youth, 13 female and three female youth.
- From the Disabled Category: One male and one female
- From Backwards Category: One male and one female
Emphasis on a Stable Government
To reach the ultimate goal stipulated in the document the party laid emphasis on running a stable government, which is to say a government which can complete its tenure of five years. The party has expressed its willingness to enter into an alliance/coalition if so needed.
However, critics may argue that a coalition government by its very nature is unstable as has been witnessed in recent times in the polity of Nepal. This is because coalition government often witnesses fragmentation due to difference in ideologies and conflicts of interest.
For instance, General Elections which were held in 2017 was won by the two most prominent parties: Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN–UML) and Maoist Center (NCP–MC) with two-thirds majority in the federal parliament, both of which eventually merged to form The Nepal Communist Party in the year 2018. After the merger, leaders began to unify under a single banner as there were pre-existing factions and streams within the UML and Maoist Center prior to this merger. The country was hopeful that the merger of the two most influential parties would lead the country towards prosperity.
However, the unity party that was formed by the first House of Representatives reached a stage of division due to disagreements between Oli and Prachanda on account of Oli’s desire to stay in power by bringing all instrumentalities of the state under his influence thereby violating democratic norms. The conflicts of interest and difference in ideologies between Prachanda and Oli, constrained the former to form informal alliances with Madhav Kumar and Jhala Nath Khanal thereby bringing Oli’s reign to an end.
When Oli was asked to step down both as party chair and prime minister, he dissolved the parliament on two occassions throwing the country into political turmoil and uncertainty. Both of Oli’s moves were invalidated by the Supreme Court as being unconstitutional.
This incident led to two important rulings by the Supreme Court:
First, invalidating the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) citing it to be an illegitimate alliance consequently resulting in the split of Nepal Communist Party– CPN-UML led by Oli and the CPN-MC led by Prachanda, both of whom, reclaimed their status as two distinct political parties resulting in division of the leaders standing for and against Oli and Prachanda.
Second, appointment of Sher Bahadur Deuba as the Prime Minister of the country who won the confidence motion in the parliament on July 18, 2021 securing 165 votes out of a total of 271.
The CPN (Maoist Center) led by Prachanda played a fundamental role in the formation of the current government yet again with the support of the five parties belonging to the ruling alliance namely Nepali Congress, CPN (Maoist Center) and CPN (Unified Socialist)’s, Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP)’s and Rastriya Janamorcha. With CPN-UML being the only party in Opposition.
It is pertinent to mention that a stable government is a necessary prerequisite for continuity in the implementation of the government’s policy. Without a stable government, self-reliance is hard to achieve.
Stance on International Relations
The Chairman has long been a critic of the USA as he views it to be an imperialist power. There is no deviation from this stance as he has accused USA of initiating a ‘new war’ by triggering hostilities against China and strengthening ties with India in this behalf. The document claims that the United States has formed military alliances with the United Kingdom and Australia known as (AUKUS) and US, Japan, Australia and India (QUAD) to counter China in the Indo-Pacific region.
When questions were raised during the convention regarding MCC, Chairman maintained that MCC should be passed only after necessary amendments in order to bring it in conjunction with the sovereign interests of Nepal.