From a united whole to multiple fragmentations: How Nepal’s Maoist party lost its relevance in 15 years

Once the kingmaker of Nepali politics, CPN (Maoist Center), now is probably the most divided and splintered political party in Nepal.


Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 4 min.

Kathmandu: When the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), whose legacy today’s  Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) claims to retain, joined the mainstream politics in 2006 following a decade-long insurgency it led, the CPN (Maoist) was one of the biggest and influential political formations in Nepal. A month-long nationwide movement, of which CPN (Maoist) was a major stakeholder, overthrew the monarchy and created momentum for making Nepal the federal republic that it is today. 

The Comprehensive Peace Accord (2006) signed between the Maoists and the government of Nepal on November 21, 2006, ended the insurgency bringing the insurgent group into competitive politics. The People’s Movement of April 2006 established the party as a force to reckon with and the Interim Constitution promulgated in January 2007 gave the party political recognition. 

Not only did CPN (Maoist) turn into a competitive political party, but it also won the first Constituent Assembly elections by winning a breathtaking number of 229 seats. 

Nearly everyone looked up to the Maoists for change and transformation. So much so that every major party built a coalition with the party of the former rebels.

Then began the process of consolidation. In January 2009, CPN (Maoist) and CPN (Unity Center) merged to form United CPN-Maoist (UCPN-M), and the erstwhile Maoist party began to be called the UCPN(Maoist). 

Those were the heydays of the party led by Maoist supremo Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Prachanda was elected as the first prime minister of the republic Nepal. Baburam Bhattarai, the second man of the party, also became the PM in 2011.

In the second CA elections held in 2013, Maoists’ position fell to the third-largest political party in Nepal.

On May 19, 2016, 10 Maoist parties including pro-unity factions from the Communist Party of Nepal (Revolutionary Maoist) and Communist Party of Nepal and the Matrika Yadav-led Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) merged with the party to form the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center). In the federal election of 2017, Maoists again secured the third position. 

CPN (Maoist Center) was the ray of hope for Nepalis in the initial days. It failed to keep up the people’s aspirations and now it has weakened to the extent that it cannot take a step further without the backing of other political parties. It advocates for the coalition and alliance repeatedly for this reason. Once the kingmaker of Nepali politics, CPN (Maoist Center), now is probably the most divided and splintered political party in Nepal. 

Even the party Chair Prachanda, who led the party for almost three decades, agrees that the party has suffered the downfall. In the ongoing General Convention of the party, he pointed out his three mistakes following the Comprehensive Peace Accord of 2006. 

First mistake, according to him, was adopting the dual policy of rebellion inside and advocating election outside. We should have discarded the revolution point, he said in the dossier presented at the convention. 

Secondly, the discussion should have been held regarding the integration of Maoist combatants in the Nepal Army, he added. 

The third mistake, he said, “was  the abrupt drop of the Prachandapath.” No discussions were held on Prachandapath.  “We should have clearly said that Prachandapath was not an ideology. If it was our ideology, we should have discussed abandoning the ideology.”

A major reason behind the downfall is the abandonment of the party by its veteran leaders. Veterans of CPN Maoists–Baburam Bhattarai, Mohan Baidya, Netra Bikram Chand, and Ram Bahadur Thapa–have already parted ways and either formed a new party or joined other parties. 

From left, Prachanda, Mohan Baidya, Baburam Bhattarai, Netra Bikram Chand, and Ram Bahadur Thapa.

In June 2012, United CPN Maoist split, after Mohan Vaidya (Kiran), the Guru of CPN Maoist walked away along with other leaders and formed Nepal Communist Party (Maoist). Kiran and other hardliner leaders termed the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) as a major mistake. Netra Bikram Chand was one of them. Later in November 2014, the relationship between Vaidya and Chand soured and Chand formed a new party Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) under his leadership. Vaidya’s party later merged with CPN (Unified) on November 8, 2015, to form CPN (Revolutionary Maoist). 

On September 26, 2015, Baburam Bhattarai, the ideologue of the party, quit United CPN Maoist and formed a new party called New Force Nepal four months later. In May 2019, Baburam Bhattarai and Upendra Yadav decided to merge their parties–Naya Shakti Party and Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum–to form Samajbadi Party Nepal.

A major reason behind the downfall is the abandonment of the party by its veteran leader

Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’, the veteran Maoist fighter, has now joined hands with the rival communist party, CPN-UML.

Now, the CPN Maoist Center looks like a weakened and disorganized force, devoid of ideologies to empower the party and strengthen its political position. Political analysts say the party is lost in confusion.

Lok Raj Baral, a political analyst, said though Maoists ’ agenda of republicanism, secularism, and inclusiveness succeeded to some extent, it is evident that CPN Maoist Center is in confusion now. Communist parties preach one ideology but practice something else. “CPN Maoist Center is suffering from the same contradiction,” he added.

According to Baral, communists are highly vulnerable to disintegration and fall. Factionalization is dominant in parties. “Though Prachanda is claiming to move forward effectively by correcting the course, in 15 years they were dominated by bad games of politics.”

Baral does not see a bright future for the CPN Maoist Center. They may join hands with other political parties to secure certain seats in elections and exercise power like they are doing now, he concluded.