It was 41 years ago that China, hearing a peal of thunder from Naxalbari, proclaimed the arrival of spring in India. That sound quickly subsided. The hopes that it raised dimmed. Now the sound of thunder is being heard even louder from atop the Himalayas. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is getting ready to assume office and write a new Constitution for the country. But China is not showing the kind of enthusiasm that Naxalbari had aroused. China has changed.
What has happened in Nepal is an event that is far greater than the one India witnessed in 1957. When the undivided Communist Party of India came to power in Kerala through the ballot, there was change of government in a state that which did not enjoy sovereignty. There was above it a regime that could control it. When CPN (M) comes to power, a sovereign state is coming under Communist rule through the ballot. More precisely, under rather tougher Maoist rule. Yet, so far, it has not aroused in imperialist quarters the kind of reaction that Communist rule in Kerala evoked. The world, too, has changed.
Nepal is almost four times the size of Kerala. But its population is only 25 million. The CPN (M) is a party that waged an armed struggle for 10 years. About 13,000 people were killed in that war. After that the party decided to experiment with carrying forward the revolution through peaceful means. It was the mass agitation that it conducted demanding abolition of monarchy that led to the election of a Constituent Assembly. Under Maoist pressure the administration brought about several changes even before a new constitution was drawn up. For instance, the world’s only Hindu kingdom became a secular state.
There were beneficial interventions from abroad to resolve the crisis in Nepal precipitated by the mass agitation. From India, the government and the CPI (Marxist) played a part in the process. Former US President Jimmy Carter was among the foreign observers who arrived to ensure that the Constituent Assembly elections were free and fair.
A total of 240 members were elected to the Constituent Assembly from territorial constituencies. Just over half of them are Maoists. But they will not be in a majority in the house. This is because 335 more members are to be elected on the basis of party lists. Each party will be allotted seats in proportion to the votes polled by it. The NPN (M) polled about 30% of the votes. So it will only get as many seats. In the circumstances, even though the other major parties are way behind it, the party can only create a set-up that is acceptable to them too.
CPN (M) leader Prachanda has stated that there will be coalition government and that he will head it. Even Nepalese know very little about this 54-year-old, who was underground for long. Prachanda is the nom de guerre taken by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who began life as a teacher, when he went underground. In a BBC interview, he revealed that his wife too was an office-bearer of the party and that they have three children.
According to those who have known him, he is really not a fierce character, as suggested by the assumed name, but is a mild-manner person, as suggested by his real name. (Prachanda means fierce one, Pushpa means flower and Kamal means lotus). But he has no hesitation to take tough action as party leader. A few years ago, he had expelled Baburam Bhattarai, who is No. 2 in the party, and his wife from the party for saying he was ‘power-hungry’. A few months later he took them back.
Prachanda is coming to power at a time when the Congress, which heads the Central government, and the Bharatiya Janata Party and the CPI (M), which head some State governments, are showing up India’s Maoist parties as a major threat. Like Maoists all over the world, the CPN (M) draws inspiration from Mao Thought. Although during the ‘people’s war’ against the royal administration, Prachanda often spent time in India, it was to China that he looked for help. The CPN (M) had formed a coordination committee with 10 other Maoist parties of South Asia. Of these, five were in India. As a result of the merger of some groups, the Indian membership of the coordination committee has now come down. According to a document prepared by the committee, the common enemy of the people of the region is “Indian expansionism, backed by world imperialism, particularly US imperialism”. These are words copied from old Chinese literature.
Like the Communist Party of China, the CPN (M) too has changed in the recent past. Now the ideological base of the CPC is not ‘Marxism-Leninism, Mai Thought’ but ‘Marxism-Leninism, Mao Thought, Deng Theory’. The Nepal party has defined its ideology as “Marxism-Leninism, Mao Thought, Prachanda Path’. The content of Prachanda Path is not clear. An anti-communist commentator wrote mockingly: “Mao Theory plus Swiss Model equals Prachanda Path.” Prachanda, who visited Switzerland last year, sees it as a model for Nepal. Like Nepal, Switzerland is land-locked and inhabited by different peoples. Although it follows the capitalist system, Prachanda and his colleagues had decided even during the revolutionary phase that Nepal could adopt its federal structure.
Prachanda realizes that although the CPN (M) has the people’s mandate, it cannot fulfil its mission without the cooperation of other parties. Even as the results of the elections started coming in, he made it clear that he would continue to work together with the other parties and the international community. His declaration that all previous agreements would be respected is indicative of his desire to go forward without rocking the boat. The attempt to harmonize Communist ideas and democratic ways through the Prachanda Path desires to be watched with interest.
Based on column "Nerkkazhcha" appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated April 24, 2008