The politics of fragmentation is underway in Nepal at present, and this process is intensifying. In the last one decade, the major political parties of the country have undergone the process of fragmentation and reunion. The Nepali Congress once saw a vertical split, and the CPN-UML, too, met a similar fate. But both the parties got reunited after years of animosity and mudslinging at one another. Even after their reunion, these parties have still not been able to regain their earlier strength, vigour and image.
The latest casualty of this politics of fragmentation is the UCPN-Maoist, out of which a new and the youngest party has been born. Mohan Baidhya Kiran and his team have formed a new party - the Communist Part of Nepal- Maoist, or CPN-Maoist.
Only last week, a Madhes-based party split with Sarat Singh Bhandari walking out of the Bijaya Gachchhadar-led Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Loktantrik). Gachchhadar, too, had created his own party after splitting from the parent party - the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, Nepal, which is now being led by Upendra Yadav. In similar fashion, almost all the Madhes-based parties have split in quick succession.
The Rastriya Prajatantra Party, or RPP, had also split into different groups. The Rastriya Janashakti Party headed by Surya Bahadur Thapa and Kamal Thapa-led Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, too, were born out of the now Pashupati Shumsher Rana-led RPP. The split of the political parties in Nepal has become a common and reoccurring phenomenon. As a result, all the major political parties have seen many ups and downs, splits and unification in the past, and this process continues to this day. But the process of fragmentation has been especially deep and more serious in the communist movement of Nepal.
Born as the youngest communist party of Asia in 1949 at the initiative of Pushpa Lal Shrestha, the Communist Party of Nepal has split several times. As a result, we have more than a dozen parties under the communist banner. After splitting, however, there is a tendency in the communist parties of Nepal to soon realise the need for unification among the communist parties and groups. History is witness to the fact that communists gain and prosper in national politics only when they are united.
The Communist Party of Nepal first got fragmented in the early 1960s. The immediate and apparent reason for the split in the communist party was the division in the international communist movement. The rise of Nikita Khruschev in the Soviet Union and his policy shift caused a great debate and polemic in the international communist movement.
Khruschev not only brought about changes in the policy and programmes of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union but he also condemned his predecessor Joseph Stalin and asked all the communists in the world to toe his political line. Many genuine Marxists and communists across the world dubbed Khruschev’s move as revisionism. While some socialist countries in Eastern Europe and elsewhere supported Khruschev’s move and toed his line, the rest of the world, including China, together with some other socialist and communist parties joined hands to condemn Russia’s new path as being inimical to the fundamental concept of Marxism and communism. This incident divided the international communist movement, the fallout of which was also seen in Nepal.
The Nepal Communist Party was sharply divided into two lines – one that toed the Soviet line and the other that opposed it and viewed China as the genuine model for the world communist movement. Keshar Jung Rayamajhi led the group that supported Khruschev’s line and Pushpa Lal Shrestha advocated the Chinese model. This two-line struggle did not remain as a mere ideological debate but developed into personal animosity that finally paved the way for a formal split in the communist party. This was the beginning of split in the communist movement in Nepal.
While the international situation created a rift between the two groups in the communist party, internal factors also played a role in disintegrating the party. That was the time when the king had just taken over power and had imposed his absolute rule. The elected government had been dissolved, the prime minister jailed and multi-party system disbanded. In such a situation, the king had adopted the policy of weakening the political parties to consolidate his hold onto power.
As part of the design, the king also played one group against the other within the parties. The communist party split vertically, and fissures also appeared in the Nepali Congress, the dominant party of that time. Those who broke away from the Nepali Congress and the communist party ultimately went to the king’s fold, people like Dr. Tulsi Giri and Biswabandhu Thapa from the Nepali Congress and Keshar Jung Rayamajhi and his pack from the communist party. Since then division in the political parties has continued, and its latest example is the split in the UCPN Maoist.
One needs to analyse why the split in the UCPN-Maoist took place. The establishment faction, or leaders of the UCPN-Maoist, claim that royalists were behind the split in their party. It implies that Mohan Baidhya and his team were guided by some royalists who wanted to take revenge against the UCPN-Maoist, which played a crucial role in abolishing the monarchy in Nepal.
This sounds logical as the monarchy and the royalists had played a role in creating rifts and splits in the parties at a certain point in history. But it does not appear plausible in the present situation because the monarchists themselves are fragmented and very weak. Their role is so insignificant in the present situation of Nepal that they are in no position to effect a split in the largest political party of the country. If the monarchists have such influence, capability and power, they could have already reinstated the monarchy. Thus, the accusation that royalists were behind the split in the UCPN is mere accusation devoid of truth.
Mohan Baidhya and his team claim they have formed the new party on revolutionary ideological grounds as the UCPN-Maoist leadership deviated from the revolutionary ideology they espoused for more than 30 years and degenerated into the revisionist, rightist and reformist line. The UCPN-Maoist has definitely undergone a paradigm shift since the famous Chunbang meeting, in which the party adopted the tactical line of peace and the constitution. The Baidhya camp claims that the degeneration in the party’s established revolutionary line began right after the Chunbang meeting. However the establishment faction dismisses this accusation and says that peace and the constitution are the party’s tactics to serve the revolution, and the Chunbang decision was correct. Here lies the crux of the problem.
But one thing that must be clearly noted here is that both the UCPN-M as well as the splinter CPN-Maoist must own responsibility of, credit or discredit for the Chunbang decision because all the leaders except Mohan Baidhya and C.P. Gajurel were present at the Chunbang meeting and none of them had opposed it.
The UCPN-Maoist has split not because of any external factor but because of its own internal problems and personality cult among the senior and influential leaders of the party. Instead of blaming outside forces, the leaders of the UCPN-M as well as the newly formed CPN-M need to do some soul searching as to what went wrong in their political and organisational life and how such mistakes can be checked in the future. There are flaws with both Prachanda and Kiran, which created the rift between them and ultimately led to the break-up of their long-political partnership.
Any split in a major political party is painful, and it is more so when it is the UCPN-Maoist because in the present context, the country is at a difficult juncture. The political process that began almost six years ago with the objective of total transformation of the country has been derailed with the failure of the Constituent Assembly to deliver a new constitution.
The Maoists raised several important crucial agendas, which have now become national agendas. These agendas are yet to be formally institutionalised. If we fail to institutionalise these agendas, the entire purpose of the decade-long ‘People’s War’ would be defeated, and the achievements of Jana Andolan II lost.
With the split in the UCPN-Maoist, these agenda and achievements will not only meet an uncertain fate but will also complicate the political process in Nepal. In fact, this is a time for unity among and within the parties to steer the country out of the present crisis. As the largest political force that travelled through an arduous political journey for radical change in the country, the UCPN-Maoist has definitely a big role and responsibility to rescue the country from sliding into further crisis. But the split is likely to diminish its role in the country’s political game plan. The political course which was charted by the Maoists may go off track with the split in the UCPN-Maoist. If this happens, the country and the people would be the ultimate losers because of this politics of fragmentation.