Former Nepalese prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda believes that a complete assimilation of Maoists into mainstream politics is vital for sending a signal to insurgents all over the world that only this is the way forward, and not a violent struggle to the finish.
Prachanda, chairman of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), shared this view with Indian opposition leaders at the residence of Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav on Thursday morning. He arrived here on a week-long visit at the invitation of the Indian government on Tuesday.
He is confident of winning a consensus on the first draft of the Constitution of Nepal, which is currently up for a public response. “I should succeed for sending a message to insurgent groups of all shades that a democratisation is possible,” he said. “Otherwise, it would mean they should fight to the finish.”
It is important that the Indian government has sought to engage the Maoist leader first after the circulation of the first draft of the Constitution in Nepal. A pro-China leader, he has described India as “an expansionist force” in the past and criticised its “interference” in Nepal’s affairs. The Indian government, which has advised all parties in Nepal to finalise the Constitution, is likely to call some other leaders too, including former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist) and Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel of the Nepali Congress.
Those present at Thursday’s meeting included leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress treasurer Motilal Vora, JD(U) secretary-general and Rajya Sabha member K C Tyagi, CPM leader and former MP Hannan Mollah and NCP general secretary and Rajya Sabha member D P Tripathi. Nepalese Ambassador Deep Kumar Upadhyay also subsequently joined the discussion.
“Take the process for the adoption of the Constitution to its logical end,” Sharad Yadav told Prachanda. To this Azad added, “You have our full support.”
Responding to Prachanda’s reference to the democratisation of Maoists, Tripathi said even Indian communists had boycotted the preparation of the Constitution, but after it was adopted they came along and started participating in elections. Prachanda said he had told the Indian external affairs minister that it would be impossible to achieve hundred per cent consensus over the Constitution, “but yes, the maximum consensus would be possible”.
Prachanda said if he got rigid vis-a-vis any provision of the Constitution, it was said of him that he had not changed. On the other hand, if he got flexible, it was said he was conceding everything.
Tyagi asked Prachanda what had led to his failure as the prime minister after just one year in office. Candidly, Prachanda said, “There were three reasons. One, having led an underground armed movement for 20 years, I did not have the skills needed for a competitive multi-party politics. Two, I should have facilitated the installation of Nepali Congress leader Girija Prasad Koirala as the President. And three, I should not have sought to sack the Army chief, General Rookmangud Katawal, when he had all of three months of service left.”
As for challenges, the Maoist leader said the integration of his 45,000 PLA insurgents into the democratic system was the foremost. More so, when they had all the weaponry that the Nepalese army had, except air-power, and controlled 85 per cent of rural areas. Explaining why he gave up the armed struggle, Prachanda said, “It was not in sync with the prevalent global atmosphere and the collateral damage it caused to the country and the people was much too high. Besides,” he added, “many factions within the movement had developed serious doubts about the viability of this course.”
Since the VHP, a sister organisation of the ruling BJP, has for long been in favour of a restoration of monarchy, followed by a declaration of Nepal as a Hindu state, a natural question was the prospect of a return of erstwhile King Gyanendra at the helm. The former prime minister discounted this possibility and said, “If we fail (to get ourselves a functional democracy), one may see a state of anarchy in the country, but he stands no chance considering his unpopularity. However, he can try to take advantage of this situation.”
Prachanda is due to visit Bhuj on Saturday to look at the reconstruction accomplished there in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. India has pledged $1 billion to Nepal for its reconstruction programme.