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Art of the impossible

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017
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Pic: Gopen Rai

Pics: Gopen Rai

Nepal’s political love triangle got a new twist even as the country emerged from the Dasain holidays: the  UML and the Maoists baffled pundits by announcing an electoral alliance, which they say could lead to an eventual merger between the two largest communist parties.

Not one to be left out of all the action, ex-Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai’s New Force also joined the alliance at the last moment and was present with other senior comrades at a noisy press conference on Tuesday evening at the Nepal Academy. There were loud cheers from supporters as the leaders spoke, justifying the unity.

unified 2The three parties signed a six-point deal at the function under which they will first join hands to contest federal-parliamentary elections in November and announce a unified party later. They said the alliance was not directed against anyone, least of all at the Nepali Congress with whom the Maoists are in a coalition at present.

The UML and the Maoists will field their candidates in 60 and 40 per cent of the total constituencies respectively, allocating a proportion to the New Force and other parties that may later join the alliance.

PM Sher Bahadur Deuba appears to have been caught unaware and invited Dahal to Baluwatar on Tuesday morning to try to convince him not to go through with the alliance. But Dahal just assured Deuba he would keep the ruling coalition intact until elections.

unified 3In August 2016, Deuba had toppled the Oli government, talking Dahal into forming an alliance with the NC instead of the UML. Deuba backed Dahal as PM until the first phase of local elections, and supported his daughter’s mayoral candidacy in Bharatpur metropolitan city of Chitwan.

Deuba and Dahal had discussed at length ways of forging a long-lasting alliance, keeping the UML out of power. But Maoist leaders say Dahal felt ‘ignored’ and even ‘humiliated’ at times after Deuba became PM in June, especially during the last phase of local elections in Province 2 just before Dasain.

Wary of the long-term NC-Maoists partnership, and somewhat humbled by the results of the Province 2 polls, Oli approached Dahal, and the two leaders discussed the possibility of a communist alliance.

Times were when politics went into a six week hibernation during the Dasain-Tihar-Chhat autumn festival in Nepal. It was therefore a good sign that the leaders of the three-party cartel did not waste their Dasain, and indulged in more than just carnivorous merry-making.

Even the cleverest analyst could not have predicted the dramatic announcement on Tuesday that the UML and the Maoist Centre had agreed on an electoral alliance.  The UML and Maoists have proven once more that that there are no permanent friends and no permanent foes in politics, and that politics is the art of the impossible. Even so, the political promiscuity among the NC-UML-Maoists is getting shamelessly opportunistic.

There are several factors that prompted this new alignment. The UML lost the Tarai in the Province 2 elections, and needs to regain the plains vote bank for parliamentary polls. The Maoists did better than they themselves expected, which convinced K P Oli that he couldn’t yet write off Pushpa Kamal Dahal.  The strong showing of the NC in voting in the Tarai also seems to have spooked the Comrades. Besides all this, the NC and the Maoists seem to have belatedly realised that theirs was an unnatural relationship,  and two parties that are ideologically so far apart that they would just not be compatible.

After the initial euphoria of immediate party unity, reality appears to have set in and the UML and the Maoists decided against contesting elections under the same ballot symbol. They will, however, be coordinating the distribution of tickets and be hoping as Baburam Bhattarai said at the press conference “to win not just a simple but a two-thirds majority” in the new Parliament. They have also agreed to take turns leading the coalition after January 2018, if they win.

The leaders who spoke all said the ideology of the party was centered on ensuring political stability so that the country could move towards “socialist-oriented prosperity”.

Dahal and Oli have justified the new alliance as a partnership between ‘nationalist’ forces. Waving the flag against perceived external enemies has always been a good electoral strategy, and Dahal especially seems to want to benefit from hanging on to Oli’s coat-tails.

Om Astha Rai and Kunda Dixit

 

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2 Responses to “Art of the impossible”

  1. Anonimous on Says:

    Meanwhile roads need repairing. Democracy is not endless GAMINg…

  2. anonymous on Says:

    I do not see any women leaders.

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