Twenty months after they split, two Maoist parties – the UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-Maoist – are headed back towards unification as they seek to consolidate their decaying power in the constitution drafting process.
The two parties have already initiated a working alliance against the government’s plan to hold local elections and revive war-era cases. On March 13, two parties issued a joint press statement announcing the working alliance between parties giving a message that they are heading for unification.
Two Maoist parties still have ideological differences, but they are trying to find common ground to consolidate the political position they lost in the November 19 elections. The UCPN (Maoist) suffered a humiliating loss at last year’s November 19 election, when it finished a distant third after Nepali Congress and CPN-UML.
The CPN-Maoist boycotted the election, saying that the Constituent Assembly (CA) cannot draft a new constitution. The UCPN (Maoist), the former rebels, emerged as the largest party in the 2008 CA but suffered a split in 2012 when party’s senior leader Mohan Baidya formed the CPN-Maoist party. Following that, the UCPN (Maoist) suffered a huge loss in the second Constituent Assembly (CA) held in November 19, 2012.
Relations between the UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-Maoist were hostile during the November election, but following the loss of power the UCPN (Maoist) has been making overtures to the CPN-Maoist.
For its part, the CPN-Maoist has failed to launch the revolt it promised when it splintered from the UCPN (Maoist). Its organizational structure is becoming obsolete as cadres leave, and the party is suffering from an ideological crisis. For survival, the party wants unification with UCPN (Maoist), despite the ideological and political differences.
“Both parties have realized that the split was a mistake, which has laid a foundation for the party unification,” UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal akin Prachanda told The Diplomat. “Both parties are also ready to revise their existing ideological line and develop a new one that would be suitable for both,” he said.
After the party split, the CPN-Maoist took the line of urban revolt, which means capturing state power through the use of force, while the UCPN (Maoist) favored drafting a democratic constitution within the Constituent Assembly (CA).
Many fear that UCPN (Maoist) is likely to stray from its policy of peace in order to unify with CPN-Maoist, since the latter has already insisted that unification would not be possible if the former fails to embrace the political line of urban revolt.
“The UCPN (Maoist) should come out of the Constituent Assembly (CA), which makes the party unification more easy,” CPN-Maoist Chairman Mohan Baidya said in a press conference this week. He also sounded confident of party unification, despite the ideological differences with UCPN (Maoist).
Dahal has told the CPN-Maoist leaders that their lawmakers will resign en mass if the CA fails to be inclusive and makes a departure from the fundamental issues that the Maoist party stood for in the first CA. The UCPN (Maoist) has also lost hope that the new constitution will address their war-era demands.
India is another of the major differences between two parties. The UCPN (Maoist) is of the view that India’s interference in Nepal’s internal politics and the unequal treaties signed with New Delhi should be resolved through political and diplomatic channels, while CPN-Maoist believes that Indian interference should be protested publicly.
During the insurgency period, the Maoists prepared to wage a tunnel war against India, before softening their policy in 2006. Now, however, the UCPN (Maoist) has hinted that it will toughen its posture on India, something that would bring the two Maoist parties closer. “We made a mistake focusing only on diplomatic efforts and failed to inform and mobilize the people on national sovereignty (India policy),” Dahal said.
Expect, then, any unification between the two Maoist parties to harden the Maoist position not only on the constitution drafting process but also on foreign polict.
Kamal Bhattarai is a Kathmandu-based journalist. He is closely following the peace process and Maoist moves in Nepal. He is currently associated with The Kathmandu Post.