ASIA NEWS NETWORK
WE KNOW ASIA BETTER
Publication Date : 13-02-2013
Since the beginning of the peace process in 2006, Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has been an integral figure in Nepali politics. Dahal’s ability to accommodate competing players and views to reach consensus on many issues within elections and government formation, for example, helped move the peace process forward. As a result, his popularity was very high, especially after the Constituent Assembly elections in 2008 that propelled him into the prime minister's office. albeit for less than a year. Since then, however, his standing has declined substantially. Whereas in the initial days, even his opponents saw him as a charismatic leader who could take the country forward, the same people today see him as a wily, double-talking politician.
Although Dahal does not score highly on the consistency of his positions, it needs to be understood that a certain amount of accommodation requires flexible positioning.
Until the recent departure of Mohan Baidya and the hardliners, Dahal’s first necessity was to keep the party intact by appeasing all factions within the party. But now, with the party split and the hardliners gone, it should be easier for Dahal to stick to one position within his party.
Outside of the party, too, Dahal faces analogous constraints. He has to walk a fine line between flexibility and what is termed ‘flip-flopping.’ This is not an easy task. Attempts to forge a deal in a polarised polity by taking supple positions may easily be construed as inconsistency. For example, the recent Maoist convention in Hetauda had officially proposed a new election government under the leadership of the present chief justice. However, in his remarks to the press immediately after his return from Hetauda, Dahal denied that the party had taken such a position, and claimed instead that the party was open to all suggestions coming from the opposition.
Giving Dahal the benefit of the doubt, the remark can be interpreted as giving the opposition the opportunity to take ownership of the process that will help select the new election government. Understandably, the inclusion of other parties in the decision-making process is important for any tangible outcome.
Dahal’s position in the party has strengthened after the General Convention held last week. Ideological quarrels in his party have subsided for now. His recent remarks show a willingness to distribute the ownership of breaking the deadlock to other parties as well. Besides, Dahal has been a dealmaker since 2006. This is an opportune time for him to reclaim his place in history by bringing the parties together again, agreeing on a suitable prime minister to hold fresh Constituent Assembly elections. If he can pull that off, Dahal’s lost popularity, and the trust he has lost among his peers, will once again be regained.