Revolution in South Asia

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AWTW: Nepal: CPN(M) leads new government

Posted by n3wday on August 28, 2008

This article was published by A World To Win news service.

Nepal: CPN(M) leads new government

25 August 2008. A World to Win News Service. The new Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal has a new government, led by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The election of its Chairman Prachanda (also known as Pushpa Kamal Dahal) to the post of Prime Minister punctuated nearly three months of political turmoil since the Constituent Assembly abolished the monarchy at its first sitting.

The Constituent Assembly, meant to decide the country’s future political configuration, was a result of a process that began in 2006 when the Maoist party signed a ceasefire agreement with the main parliamentary parties, left out in the cold when King Gyanendra took all power into his own hands the year before. Against all expectations, the CPN(M) won more than a third of the seats at the subsequent elections, held on 10 April 2008. The polls were a big blow to the two parties that had dominated parliament in the constitutional monarchy period, the Nepal Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), whose combined total of seats is slightly less than that of the Maoists. Despite its name, the UML was a merciless opponent of the people’s war that took place during the monarchy, both when the UML briefly headed the government itself and when it was a junior partner of the NC.

Nevertheless, these two parties have shown that they intend to continue to play a major role in affairs of state.

One of the key electoral slogans of the CPN(M) had been “Prachanda President”. But when elections for President were held a few weeks ago, the CPN(M) candidate was denied the necessary majority vote in the Constituent Assembly by an alliance of the NC, UML and the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum. The MJF is a new, explicitly non-revolutionary and pro-India party that says it represents the people of the Terai region, who live along the border with India. The presidency went to Rambaran Yadav, a central NC leader from the Terai. Although the CA created this new position to be mainly ceremonial, as head of state the president is officially commander in chief of the army and is empowered to declare a state of emergency.

Due to bitter negotiations and political manoeuvring, 55 days went by between the abolition of the monarchy and the swearing in of the republic’s head of state. It took another three weeks before this president, in turn, swore in the new prime minister. Efforts to form a government of national consensus composed of all the main political parties failed, despite a pre-election agreement to that effect. The NC, UML and MJF squabbled over who would get what portfolios in the new government. Yet this was not entirely a matter of narrow party self-interest, since all three converged on the principle that the CPN(M) had to be further fenced in as much as possible without completely discrediting the electoral system that is the source of their legitimacy. Part of this policy was denying the presidency to Prachanda; another was an agreement that even if Prachanda were allowed to become prime minister, his party could not have both the Ministry of Defence and the Home Ministry (police and internal security).

When the NC was denied the Defence ministry, it refused to support Prachanda for prime minister or join a government led by him, but the UML and MJF backed him. They were joined by dozens of smaller parties, and Prachanda won easily. Yet even then more days passed before the new premier could begin to form his cabinet. Among the eight ministers who took office 22 August, which amounted to only a third of the expected total, the CPN(M) has four ministers: Finance (Baburam Bhattarai), Defence (Ram Bahadur Thapa), Law and Justice (Dev Gurung) and Information and Communications (Kirshna Bahadur Mahara). The MJF has Foreign Affairs, Works and Transport, Agriculture and Education. The UML had agreed to accept six ministries, including Home. But at the swearing-in ceremony, UML leaders refused to let their designated ministers step forward to take the oath. As of this writing, some UML leaders are saying that the party will not participate in the government unless it is given the position of deputy prime minister, while others are arguing that the party should not support a Maoist-led government under any circumstances. NC leaders say they may try to bring the new government down.

Also still unclear is the Common Minimum Programme which is supposed to serve as the new government’s basis of unity. According to, “the Maoist party has proposed the restructuring of the state in the spirit of federalism, drafting the new constitution within two years, immediate relief package to conflict-affected and poor people, integration of Maoist combatants and management of arms within three months as per the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), restructuring the bureaucracy to make it suitable for the federal system, special development programmes for the Karnali region, employment for youth, price controls and normalisation of the supply of fuels and other essentials, among others.” (2 August) Further details about the CMP were not available as of this writing.

This “integration of Maoist combatants and management of arms” is the most contested issue the new government will face. Under the agreement that brought an end to the people’s war, the Maoist-led People’s Liberation Army is to cease to exist. In his inaugural speech, Prachanda repeated his party’s commitment to that agreement. The NC, in particular, has demanded that the PLA be disbanded immediately, which the Maoists have refused to do, calling this a violation of the spirit of the agreement. Instead, the CPN(M) is continuing to call for the integration of the PLA fighters into the Nepal Army. (Red Star no. 13, 18-31 August)

The International Crisis Group, a think tank led by top state officials and major political advisors of the Western imperialist powers, calls the existence of two armies “not a sustainable situation,” and advises that this issue be resolved by admitting “a few thousand PLA members” in the Nepal Army “one by one.” (”Nepal’s new political landscape”, 2 July 2008, Prachanda stated after the elections that, “Only those professionally fit and physically fit will join the army, while the others can be mixed into the police or a separate industrial security force can be created.” (CNN IBM, 19 May) This added qualification meant that, contrary to what the CPA gave room to think, much less than the entire PLA membership would continue under arms. Yet Chief of Staff of the Nepal Army Rookmanagad Katwal has maintained that as far as he is concerned, any PLA member is by definition disqualified from joining the Nepal Army (NA), according to the ICG report. Katwal publicly repeated that position in June, saying that his army would never accept “politically indoctrinated people” into its ranks. (, 12 June)

As the ICG report also points out, “the NA remains… a largely autonomous force, and one keen to flex its political muscles… The transfer of supreme command to the NC president meant that… the NA has never been subject to less political control in its entire history, whether under Ranas or Shahs” (the two Nepali ruling dynasties). Lying behind the army’s stubbornness, the ICG concludes, is not only that it counts on the explicit support of the NC and other parties, but far more fundamentally, “it has been shielded by powerful allies, in particular India.”

Some 19,000 People’s Liberation Army members have been confined to cantonments and their arms have been put under UN supervision, with a view to their eventual “integration” into what was still called the Royal Nepal Army when the peace agreement was signed. Living conditions in these camps have sometimes been bad from the start, and the fact that these PLA soldiers have not received their promised living allowances has brought hunger and disease. On the eve of the new government, the so-called caretaker government released 13 months of back pay to those in the camps, along with providing compensation to family members of those killed during the war. The money and apparently the initiative came from the World Bank, which also said it would sponsor employment programmes to re-integrate former fighters into society. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 6 August).

On taking office, Prime Minister Prachanda complied with an agreement reached with the parliamentary parties and announced that he and other CPN(M) members sitting in the Constituent Assembly or the new government would give up their PLA positions (he was head of the PLA). At his inauguration, however, PLA soldiers provided his immediate security and controlled physical access, as they have since he came to live openly in Kathmandu. The other parties raised angry protests, demanding that he entrust his life to the Nepal Army alone.

The CPN(M)’s Young Communist League is an object of dispute for similar reasons, since its enemies accuse it of being a revolutionary paramilitary force. According to Kantipur (16 August), following the agreement with the other parties that led to his election as prime minister, Prachanda “also announced that the paramilitary modus operandi of the party’s youth wing, the YCL, would be scrapped, and public and private buildings, factories and other properties captured by the party will be returned to the owners concerned. He announced that all the party units established as parallel state units [the various levels of the former revolutionary government established during the people’s war] will likewise be scrapped. ‘These agreements will be implemented as early as possible after setting a timeframe,’ assured Dahal.”

Another central and contentious issue to be faced by the new government is that of agrarian revolution and the elimination of feudal conditions, a core goal of the people’s war. “We have not completed the new democratic revolution, you know,” Chairman Prachanda told interviewers the day before the convening of the Constituent Assembly. (Mary Des Chene and Stephen Mikesell, 27 May 2008, The question of what will happen to land confiscated by the revolutionary forces during the war has not been officially resolved, nor has it been announced how the need for continued radical measures in the countryside will be met. Few peasant families – who make up two-thirds of the country’s workforce – can feed themselves through tilling their land. Instead, they depend on income from family members who’ve gone abroad to work in India or elsewhere.

One of the new government’s main themes has been that it will defend national interests in the country’s relations with its neighbours. Under treaties signed by the monarchy as well as through thickly braided economic, political and military ties, Nepal has been smothered under Indian domination. There have been conflicting views coming out of Indian ruling circles regarding the CPN(M)’s ascension to government. The current Indian government played a major role in facilitating the process that led to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. While the former governing Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has expressed outrage at the end of the Hindu monarchy in Nepal, in an early August meeting with NC Prime Minister Koirala, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged the formation of a government of national consensus in Nepal, which is exactly what the NC ended up preventing. One of India’s leading dailies, The Hindu, hailed Prachanda’s election as “the ultimate victory of sobriety, accountability, and morality over the politics of cynicism and distrust” and criticised Koirala and “powerful interests within and without Nepal” for opposing “the people’s verdict” in the CA elections.

The International Crisis Group report says, “India’s close involvement in every aspect of Nepal’s politics shows no sign of diminution; nor does the scope of its influence appear to have been particularly harmed or boosted by the election. For all the outpourings of commentary and analysis, the future of Nepal-India relations looks mainly like more of the same.”

In a sharp break with tradition, however, Prime Minister Prachanda’s first voyage abroad was not, as is customary, to India, but to China, where he met with the president and head of the Communist Party, Hu Jintao, and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Prachanda reiterated “Nepal’s stand in favour of China’s efforts to maintain national sovereignty and territorial integrity.” (, 24 August)

The new government received messages of congratulations from many of its neighbours and the big powers, including India, Japan, the European Union and the U.S.

(For background and an overview, see “The 12th anniversary of the people’s war in Nepal and its unsettled outcome”, AWTWNS 11 February 2008.)

2 Responses to “AWTW: Nepal: CPN(M) leads new government”

  1. n3wday said

    In another thread this relevant comment was made by Arthur.


    It isn’t concise [the AWTW article].

    Nor is it accurate. It implies that the Maoists agreed that the PLA would cease to exist but are now dragging their feet while the other side insists on carrying out the agreement. That propaganda for the other side is presumably unintentional, but reflects the author’s own prejudice that the Maoists compromised too much and are in some danger of ongoing stalemate and defeat rather than steady advance.

    Actually both sides agreed that both armies would be merged together under civilian control through the Defence Ministry. The other side is dragging their feet because there is obviously no way to maintain a viable counter-revolutionary armed force with a thousand integrated Maoist troops, let alone more than ten thousand of them. They will need a few months to adjust to being answerable to Cde Badal as Defence Minister, who is answerable to Cde Prachanda as Prime Minister. Meanwhile the PLA is guarding its own weapons (as is the National Army). The UN is merely verifying that both sides are just guarding them, not using them. The PLA remains a force in being, with its wages being paid by the World Bank.

    The absurdity of that situation has already started to sink in, while returning to civil war looks even more hopeless than continuing it did 3 years ago when the counter-revolutionaries realised they could not win and the revolutionaries agreed to accept what they had been fighting for – a Constituent Assembly.

    The item does contain useful factual information and such errors appear to be the result of genuine confusion rather than malice. But I don’t think it’s “useful”. It conveys an impression of Maoists being forced into a difficult compromise and worn down by status quo forces at least equal in strength (reflecting the author’s prejudices and the ICG’s wet dreams).

  2. Interesting article from AWTW, albeit with pessimistic overtones. Doesn’t really go into significance of Comrade Badal being Defence Minister. If a national army=power over army by Maoist government where does that lead the analysis that the people are about to lose their army, that is made by some? The question is really about which line in the party wins out-the status quoist line or the revolutionary line. With the status quoist line in charge, the integration of the PLA really would be a disaster.

    In a slightly different connection it’s interesting to read Comrade Bhattari’s call for ‘Total Socialism’ translated into English by the scandal-mongering, right-wing Nepal Telegraph see

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