Just as the unification of our supreme comrades appeared to have gathered pace, the only communist ex-premier outside the process has likened it to the merger of two banks.
K.P. Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, the leaders of the Unified Marxist-Leninists (UML) and the Maoist Centre respectively, engaged in a three-hour one-on-one session the other day. What actually transpired during those talks remains murky, but it is nevertheless perceived as having provided a much-needed fillip to a course of unity that had begun to fizzle.
Yet, in Naya Shakti chief Baburam Bhattarai’s view, such negotiations are nothing more than something what two banks would hold to determine the post-merger chairman and chief executive officer posts.
Clearly, Messrs Oli and Dahal have a wide variety of interests in pursuing unity. Considering the recent election results, the prospect has caught the people’s imagination. If the UML seems to be the dominant force here, it’s understandable why the Maoist Centre would acquiesce. Divisions and disaffection have weakened the once formidable entity. Yet the specter of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – at least theoretically – looms as large today as it did in the immediate aftermath of the ‘People’s War’.
International supporters of the political transition in Nepal are a weird lot in this respect. The pro-accountability/anti-impunity subset wants Nepal to be a success story in their cause, now that African nations have started pushing back.
As the supreme commander of the erstwhile ‘People’s Liberation Army’, Dahal knows that this is far from an equal fight. Who really believes the international community is going to haul the state army before the ICC or any related international tribunal on equivalent charges. The Nepal Army is a primary, if less palpable, pillar of the polity. Compared to that institution, the Maoists are has-beens. Dahal’s counterpart on the battlefield, the former king, will continue to symbolize the potential for change/correction lest our political establishment veer off course internally or geopolitically.
So when Bhattarai uses the corporation analogy, he may be more right than he knows. Once the Maoists cede their existing legal existence, they will have added an extra layer of protection against prosecution. But would that be security enough?
Such apprehensions don’t seem to clutch Bhattarai as much. Unlike Dahal, he wasn’t a soldier. Like Joseph Goebbels, he was the chief propagandist of a cause. Bhattarai spilled ink, not blood. Now, that defense never got to be tested at the Nuremberg Trials because Goebbels took the easier way out by voluntarily perishing along with his boss in that Berlin bunker. However, considering that Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop – a civilian who used diplomacy to pursue his cause – wasn’t spared the noose, Goebbels wouldn’t have stood much of a chance.
Bhattarai, for his part, has rolled the dice. He recognizes how his Naya Shakti is emblematic of the eternal newness that animates the Nepali consciousness. Over the past dozen years, whenever the existing promise of newness has appeared unfeasible, he has deftly shifted the goal posts. Moreover, the extent of Bhattarai’s external benefaction is probably more enduring than Dahal’s. So if he thinks Nepal still needs him more than it does his other former Maoist colleagues – the ICC or not – could you really fault him?
And, as to the broader question, aren’t mergers and acquisitions supposed to create value for the stakeholders?