Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Ins And Outs Of It

What’s more likely to happen in the next couple of weeks? Baburam Bhattarai and his supporters formally walking out of the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) to create their own organization or the Mohan Baidya Maoists returning to Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s fold?
An equal chance you might proffer. And why not? The two possibilities do seem to have some sort of relationship. For Baidya to return, Bhattarai would have to leave. Conversely, for Baidya to stay out, Bhattarai would have to stay in.
Now, things aren’t so cut and dried. This makes the issue all the more intriguing.
For starters, what is the opportunity cost of Bhattarai staying in? The ‘nationalist’ current in the Maoist movement would remain splintered. Ideologically, Dahal and Baidya stand wide apart, the former more attuned to the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (UML)’s new capitalist sympathies.
In the aftermath of the divisive Biratnagar conference, Dahal has described Bhattarai’s activities as deviant and revisionist, a charge Baidya has leveled against Dahal for far longer.
The Dahal-Bhattarai relationship has always been a difficult one. Each has attributed the vexation to their different backgrounds. Overall, the love-hate relationship has worked out well for both.
Dahal has relied on Bhattarai throughout for the ideological underpinnings for his political program. If Bhattarai has been able to transition from a party’s chief ideologue to a broadly acceptable national leader, he owes it in no small measure to Dahal.
How strong would Bhattarai’s faction be independently? Bhattarai the man might be able to prosper anywhere. But would his supporters be able to emerge from his halo sufficiently to build the new organization into a viable force?
The Maoists command a segment of Nepali political allegiance that would now have to divvied up organizationally. While many true believers accuse Dahal of ideological deviation from the glory days of the people’s war, many of these same critics see Bhattarai as complicit in the degeneration.
Bhattarai would have to try to broaden his organizational base by encroaching upon territory now controlled by forces to the centre and right. Good luck on that.
For someone as self-absorbed as Bhattarai, forming a one-man army would be self-actualizing. But we all know he can’t act alone on matters of such consequence.
Despite their ideological differences, the ‘nationalism’ plank would be enough to bring the Dahal and Baidya factions closer – possibly even toward eventual unification – especially given the political advantage they could derive should internal dynamics turn even more disheartening.
Those standing against such a coalescing of forces – currently more preponderant outside the country than within – would want Bhattarai to stay in. The question is: Would he want to defy them?