By Bhaskar Roy
The reputation of the Unified CPN (Maoist) led by its Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal @ Prachanda has taken a nosedive among the people, and is desperately trying to keep itself united. The main spoiler is Prachanda himself.
Waging underground guerrilla war against an unpopular king and self serving political parties is not the same as running an organized political according to the expectation of the people, let alone governing the country. While in the underground, the Maoists resorted to looting, killing, confiscating private property and disturbing the law and order situation. Once used to strong arm methods and all sorts of illegal means for more than a decade, it is very difficult to give up old habits.
That is what has happened to most of the UCPN (M) leaders and their armed Young Communist League (YCL). Their army, known as the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on the Chinese designation for their army forces, also acted similarly whenever they could slip out of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) barracks.
The Maoists won a huge majority in the elections because the people had been let down by the political parties and the king for long. The people hoped that the Maoists being revolutionaries against exploitation would run a People’s government. Sadly, their hopes were belied. Once in power the Maoists forgot the people and continued with their old ways.
Although India brokered a deal between the Maoists and the other parties to help the Maoists to be accepted to form a democratic Nepal, the Maoists turned vehemently against India.
They thought it would easy to turn the people against India raising the issue of Indian exploitation and expansionism. This did work to a certain extent initially, but the Nepali people and Maoists members are beginning to see through the ploy mainly promoted by Prachanda, hardline Vice Chairman Mohan Baidya Kiran, Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal among others.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the government made a major mistake by encouraging the Maoists against India. Immediately after the ascendancy of the Maoists, the Chinese military leaders offered financial and training assistance to Maoist PLA to strengthen their fighters. It is surprising that the usually astute Chinese leaders did not understand that neither the people and political parties in Nepal nor the outside stake holders in Nepal, would accept such a bizarre situation. Two armies in a country prize recipe to plunge it into civil war.
From December 2008 and now, senior Chinese leaders agreed to support the anti-India line at least three times, assuring the Maoists they will safeguard Nepal’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The latest such assurance came from a member of the Central Committee of the CCP, He Yong.
Many more such statements have been made by Chinese experts connected to the government and CCP while visiting Nepal. Prof. Wang Hongwei, who on an earlier visit to Kathmandu had warned that China was aware that India was planning to “Sikkimise” Nepal and China would not stand by silently, repeated the same views in Kathmandu recently but adding that “what will happen if China supports ongoing separatist movement in North-East India?” He was alleging India was supporting Tibetan separatists. India cannot ignore such statements from Chinese intellectuals who usually unofficially convey the Chinese government’s official thinking.
It is becoming clear that the open Chinese support from the very beginning (2008) has severely disbalanced the minds of most of the Chinese leaders. They felt that they enjoyed so much power that they could get away with anything including wide ranging corruption and act as banana-republic strongmen.
The recent extended plenary session (last week of Nov 2010) of the Maoists at Palungtar was an eye opener. Not only there were three different political lines presented by Prachanda, Baidya and Bhattarai, with Prachanda calling India the prime enemy but opposed by Bhattarai, but the reaction of and open charges of corruption, malfeasance and luxurious living style against the leading cadres including Prachanda by name were laid by cadres. This was something unprecedented for a party whose leaders have generally been deified by the cadres and foot soldiers in the past. Even internet blogs came up severely attacking the leaders in no uncertain terms.
The reason is not far to see. Much of the charges though not specifically mentioned in the plenum by the protesting cadres, issues are being talked about in the Maoist circles which obviously spread out.
To win over the hearts of the Maoists, the Chinese government earmarked some seats with scholarships for children on Maoist “Martyrs” in Chinese institutions. But it was found that Maoist leaders were sending their children in place of the children of the dead revolutionaries. Maoist politburo members Agni Sapkota and Dina Nath Sharma have sent their children to China against these reserved scholarships. This has been strongly resented by the cadres because those who lost their lives were from among them and not from the likes of Sapkota and Sharma.
Last year, a high level committee was formed under Mohan Baidya to investigate indiscipline, corruption and amassing illegal wealth and general change in life style of leaders. The report was prepared and submitted to the politburo, but was suppressed by the top leadership.
Cases and complaints have been filed against General Secretaries Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal for extortion using YCL cadres, and Barsha Man Pun Ananta for illegal trading of expensive medicinal herbs and sandal wood. Party secretary Posta Bahadur Bogoti is alleged have pilfered from funds meant for martyrs, and keeping a PLA fighter as a domestic help. There are various corruption, money pilfering and smuggling charges against senior leaders like Krishna Bahadur Mahara, foreign affairs head, party spokesman Dina Nath Sharma, prominent standing committee members Top Bahadur Raimajhi and many others.
Numerous anonymous complaints have been filed against Prachanda, including receiving cuts from Agni Sapkota’s smuggling enterprise. Charges of financial irregularities against Prachanda goes back to his insurgency days. Bhattarai is also reported to be not so clean.
The Maoists are a close compact group as most underground insurgents are. But the Maoists leaders have gone beyond the tolerance level. Honest cadres are disillusioned and frustrated, but the leaders wield muscle power through the YCL members who are also allowed to loot, extort and murder. This is one reason why the Maoist leaders are not inclined to disband the YCL despite demands from the other political parties – one of the conditions for concluding the peace process.
The Palungtar conclave suggested that the UCPN (Maoist) was on the verge of a split. If the party is to survive with an acceptable profile for the people of Nepal, it needs to purge some of the top leaders including Prachanda, Thapa and some others, and disband the YCL. Many of them have lost their credibility with the cadres. Prachanda was openly called a “trickster” at the extended plenum. How can such people lead a government? Prachanda still insists he must be the Prime Minister of Nepal!
Whatever may be the India question, Nepal urgently needs reliable leaders to ensure stability and development. The Maoist have blocked all government work the last two years. They have exhibited no vision. In fact they have blinded the country. The fact is that the controlling heads of the party just do not have the credentials to govern Nepal simply because they do not know how to.
China must stop fishing in the troubled waters of Nepal or else they will suffer a blow back. The other political parties in Nepal, especially the Nepali Congress and the CPN(UML) have to resolve their internal bickering to salvage Nepal. Unless they do so, Nepal may go into a dangerous spin. History has shown that whenever top insurgent leaders take over leadership over ground, they are generally a disaster. Look at the pains inflicted by Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, the Cambodian (Kampuchean) leaders and others. With history as lesson, Nepal need not experience a catastrophe and a Maoist mafia government.
(The author is an eminent China analyst with many years of experience. He can be reached at [email protected])