ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ballad of the Bullet and Ballot

How did the Maoists accomplish in the elections in Nepal what is historically without precedence? 

The mainstream Nepali and international media were stunned when the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) – the CPN(M) – began to emerge as the largest party in the Nepali constituent assembly (CA) elections, held on April 10. Diplomats reporting to New Delhi and Washington, supremely confident that the Maoists would be relegated to third place, now began complaining of “intelligence failure”. As we go to press, it is clear that the Maoists will be the dominant bloc in Nepal’s constituent assembly to be convened in three weeks time. On April 18, with the results of 221 of the 240 seats in the first-past-the-post part of the elections declared, the CPN(M) had won more seats (116) than those by the next three parties taken together (89) – the Nepali Congress, the CPN (United Marxist-Leninist) and the Madhesi Jan Adhikar Forum. And, in the proportional representation part of the elections, the Maoists seem set to win one-third of the 335 seats. Overall, it looks like the Maoists may get a simple majority, and, if they can forge an alliance of the left in the CA, for which they will have to bring the centre-left CPN(UML) on board, the left in Nepal can draft a truly progressive constitution to guide the nation’s destiny. The Maoists in Nepal have accomplished what is historically without precedence – no Maoist political formation has ever before been elected to office through universal franchise to govern a country and have a big say in the writing of its constitution anywhere in the world. How did this come about?

The CPN(M) has grown more than exponentially in the 12 years since it launched the “people’s war” in 1996, in the process spreading to most of Nepal’s 75 districts. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), built by the Maoists, could not have survived without widespread support. Wherever it went, the PLA forged close ties with the people – a must for success in a protracted guerrilla war. During this time, over a period of 10 years, the Maoists built a number of mass organisations – of workers, peasants, women, intellectuals, students, teachers, etc from the local to the regional and national levels. The Maoists were running parallel governments in large parts of the country, excluding of course the big cities and the district headquarters. But, unable to advance into the big cities and the district headquarters, the “people’s war” reached an impasse, which led the Maoists to adopt alternative political tactics.

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