Will communist forces come together before the federal polls?

As some of the communist leaders are making public statements about the need for reviving the communist alliance for the federal parliament elections, experts say the prospect is too distant at the moment.

From left, CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli, CPN (Maoist Chairman) Pushpa Kama Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and CPN (Unified Socialist) Chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal.

Nishan Khatiwada

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Kathmandu: As the fever of the approaching federal elections has started to hit the Nepali political landscape, the rumors and speculations about the communist alliance–especially between CPN-UML, CPN-Maoist Center, and CPN (Unified Socialist)–have surfaced again. 

A few days ago, this writer had noted five scenarios for the upcoming federal elections–two of them related to the alliance between the communist forces in Nepal. Experts, political commentators, and even leaders of communist parties have started to debate whether the upcoming federal parliamentary elections will also witness a communist alliance.

Conflicting message 

Communist leaders in Nepal have given differing opinions about the prospects of the communist alliance for federal polls–while some openly push for it, others strongly stand opposed. 

On June 3, CPN (Unified Socialist) senior leader Jhalanath Khanal called the communist alliance a sine qua non for the country today at the Parliament building in New Baneshwor. “Communist alliance is a necessity. But the leaders who claim to be flagbearers of the communist movement are themselves against the unity,” he said. 

On June 1, CPN Maoist Center Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda warned the Nepali Congress–the largest party of the current ruling alliance–at an orientation program held for the elected representatives. Comparing Nepali Congress with the main opposition CPN-UML, he said, “If the NC behaves like CPN-UML, we will be compelled to rebel against such moves.” Prachanda’s remarks indirectly hint at a possibility of a change of course by the party. 

Reportedly, Prachanda and CPN (Unified Socialist) chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal have claimed that they have been offered the prime ministerial post (the source of the offer is suspected to be the CPN-UML). And, according to some leaders of the CPN (US) and the Maoist Center, informal talks are underway between the second-level leaders of the communist parties about forming the communist alliance. 

CPN-UML Deputy General Secretary Prithivi Subba Gurung states that the communist parties should think a step forward and two steps back. “To take the politics to progressive direction, an alliance needs to be forged. Different forces tried to break the unity of the senior leaders which resulted in the current situation,” he said, adding that he would make efforts for the formation of the communist alliance. 

CPN (US) chair Madhav Kumar Nepal, however, has denied the possibility of a communist alliance at present. At a program organized in Surkhet on June 2, Nepal denied any truth in the rumors about the CPN (US), Maoist Center, and UML teaming up. 

Why alliance again?

The main opposition CPN-UML lost a considerable number of seats in the local polls.  Some UML leaders, therefore, could be mulling the possibility of a communist as a strategy for the party to secure a majority in the federal elections. Besides, other communist leaders of the ruling alliance are also not happy with the local election results and feel betrayed. This has also, to some extent, kept the probability of communist forces joining hands for the federal elections.

Experts see the talks about the communist alliance in a different light.  

“The emerging talks about an alliance by some communist leaders is a matter of political bargaining,” said Hari Roka, a political analyst. “In the last elections, not all the leaders and cadres voted for the common candidates fielded by the ruling alliance, leading to a sense of dissatisfaction and a feeling of betrayal,” among communist leaders. That’s why, according to him, the rumors and talks of a new communist alliance have emerged. 

The political parties in Nepal compromise their ideologies while forging an alliance. They form the alliance first and only then start to talk about the common programs. “In such politics, obviously, lack of trust will prevail and these voices will appear,” Roka added. 

Another political analyst Dr Indra Adhikari points to the foreign factor. She says that the influence of foreign powers could be a reason behind some communist leaders talking about forming a communist alliance for the federal elections. Foreign powers want to bind other countries in their sphere of influence, she said. The northern neighbor, according to her, wants to see a united and robust communist force to be in power.

Apart from that, the talk about the formation of a communist alliance is also an indication that their parties have the space for other forces too. “They seem to be sending a message to UML chief KP Oli that communist parties in the current ruling coalition are not negative about forming an alliance.” For her, the timing of this messaging is also important. “Some leaders have started strategically hinting about a communist alliance after the local elections,” she said, adding, “they believe the bargaining with the party bagging the highest number of seats in local elections would guarantee more seats for them in the federal elections.” 

What’s the prospect? 

Adhikari does not see any prospect of the communist alliance in the near future. “It can happen in the distant future but not now nor in the federal election. We should not forget that the parties in the ruling alliance came together in opposition to UML chief’s move of dissolving the House of Representatives twice.”

According to Adhikari, the mere wish of the CPN (US) and Maoist Center does not make the communist alliance a reality. “The CPN-UML should also concur,” she said. “They split from CPN-UML due to disputes and turmoil in the party. Besides, Oli is not agreeing to rethink his previous moves and is repeatedly undermining and insulting the other communist leaders even today.”

On May 17, 2018, when CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) had merged to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), the largest communist force Nepal had ever seen. The leaders glorified the unification as the “game-changer” in the history of Nepali communist movement. But the Supreme Court in March annulled the merger, sending CPN-UML and Maoist Centre back to their pre-merger status. The court, with the verdict, revived the erstwhile UML and the Maoist party. 

The SC’s verdict came at a time when the internal conflicts were rife in NCP. 

Similarly, following internal rifts between Madhav Nepal and Oli, CPN-UML officially split in August 2021. Madhav Nepal then registered a new political party named CPN (Unified Socialist). 

Roka, for his part, says given the past contradictions, disputes and split between the communist leaders, it is quite sure a communist alliance especially the alliance of CPN-US and Maoist Center with CPN-UML is not a chance in the near future. 

According to him, Oli’s continuity as the most powerful leader in UML also renders alliance possibility too distant.