Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ is a name that goes with political opportunism and disturbances mostly. He is a crucial figure in the political phenomena—he appears to help to establish opportunity for other leaders but he is actually trying to find a place for himself. His own aspirations, however, are failing in politics.
Prachanda recently announced three decisions in Sarlahi. The goal of each decision is to secure his presence in Nepali politics. He describes himself as a progressive leader who is always on the side of the people. He shows his love for Madhesh, offering to build a strong alliance of the oppressed communities. He does all this because he fears that he will soon be irrelevant in politics.
Prachanda often tries to woo Madhesh but Madhesh has not reciprocated so far. He shows a lot of sympathy for Madhesh but actions do not help Madhesh politics to succeed. His goal is to establish political dominance there. He is actually looking to capitalize on the electoral constituencies Madhesh has. Province 2, with eight districts, has 32 constituencies for the House of Representatives. A party with a good foothold in Madhesh has an impact on national politics. Because of its strong grip in Madhesh, the Nepali Congress retained a prominent position in national politics after the 1990s. Madhes-based parties, rather than the Nepali Congress, acquired a substantial share of Madheshi voters after the People’s Movement II. Prachanda knows this very well.
His party attempted to establish a power base in Madhesh immediately after joining peaceful politics. Unfortunately, as many as 29 Maoist cadres were killed in the Gaur massacre of March 29, 2007. The Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum led by Upendra Yadav has been held responsible for this mass killing. Both the Madheshi Janaadhikar Forum and the CPN Maoist were trying to consolidate power in Madhesh at the time.
Maoists secured 120 seats in the first Constituent Assembly elections representing 50 percent of the constituencies of the country. In Madhesh, they fared poorly. Ever since, Prachanda has been trying to take Madhesh into his confidence. But Madhesi people don’t seem to be attracted toward Prachanda at all. His influence is diminishing by the day.
Prachanda claims no one can stop Maoist Center from becoming the country’s largest political party. Not hope and confidence but fear lies in this statement.
Prachanda projected himself as a savior of the marginalized. During the decade-long Maoist insurgency, nearly 17,000 people—majority of them from the underprivileged and excluded groups—lost their lives. But he failed to fulfill their expectations. During the war, Maoists pledged a lot of reforms on political, economic and social fronts. They said rule of law, good governance and development would be their topmost priorities. If the rule of law was upheld and development proceeded at a rapid pace, people’s aspirations for prosperity would surely be fulfilled. Majority of people voted for Maoists in the first Constituent Assembly elections hoping for better governance, progress, prosperity and dignity. But the first Maoist-led government failed to achieve those dreams for the people. Ever since, the popularity of Maoists, including Prachanda’s, has been going down. Party split, ideological deviation and lack of vision for the country and the people have further led the party to become unpopular among the people.
Rarely does a political leader want to relinquish control of his/her position. Prachanda wants to revive the days of popularity he and his party enjoyed during the first Constituent Assembly elections by bringing the excluded and the marginalized people to his fold. People, on the other hand, are well aware that today’s Prachanda is no longer the Prachanda on whom they had pinned a lot of hope in 2008. He has no zeal, courage and charisma that he exhibited during the times of insurgency. His claim that he is a progressive leader does not resonate among people.
Yet, Prachanda has not stopped selling the dreams and making promises to the people. Even today he claims that no one can stop Maoist Center from becoming the country’s largest political party. Not hope and confidence but fear lies in this statement. Leaders sometimes make such statements to keep their cadres in good humor. Deep down, he himself does not seem to believe his party will become the largest one ever again.
Prachanda needs to keep his party in reasonable size in order to stay in the political game, but this is difficult to maintain. Prachanda and his party had formed an alliance with the Nepali Congress (NC) in the 2017 local elections but it didn’t give him the expected outcome. Then he formed an electoral alliance with CPN-UML despite his apparent dislike for UML chair KP Sharma Oli. It was claimed that the goal of the merger with UML was to achieve socialism. But in three years, Nepal Communist Party (NCP) broke into pieces, let alone achieve socialism. Today he is the chairman of CPN Maoist Centre once again. In the minority, he is looking for new friends and, as such, he has proposed merger and alliance with Janata Samajbadi Party led by Upendra Yadav. He is doing that because he is afraid of losing the election. He is looking for a friend who can assist him in repositioning the Maoists. But he is following the same old trick. It had worked for Prachanda and his party in the past. Will it work now?