'Indian Maoists haven't evolved'
NEW DELHI: A lasting impression of a leader of the 21st century's first 'successful'revolutionary movement — CPN (Maoist) chairman Prachanda — is his smile that does not seem to fade. But the force of his arguments as he deals with incisive questioning provides a window to a sharp and pragmatic mind.
He is deft in countering charges that his party was linked to ISI or Indian Maoists and his demeanour lends itself to the impression that his motives are transparent and he is very serious about reducing former king Gyanendra to a private citizen and royal assets into national wealth as Nepal becomes a democratic republic.
In interactions in the city on Saturday, Prachanda displayed an appetite for candour when it came to Maoist ideology. He made it clear that though his party has an 'ideological relationship'with Indian Maoists, this was not a 'working relationship'.
He then made the telling point that "They (Indian Maoists) have not evolved ideologically as they should have."
The hint that Indian Maoists have not moved along the evolutionary path could be an implied comparison with CPN's ability and preparedness to negotiate when it felt doing so, was in its interest. Prachanda said ideological debate within his party has helped it prepare for 'new realities'.
He pointed to mistakes of Stalin, which he ascribed to lack of ideological debate. On his party's perceived proximity to China?"China is not consistently communist. It has changed colour,"he said.
When reactions were sought to Prachanda's formulations on Indian Maoists, CPI leader D Raja said,"This was his (Prachanda's) view.
Mainstream Left parties oppose Indian Maoists over several issues, we do not support them."
With second-in-command Baburam Bhattarai, Prachanda spoke of the fate of yet-to-be signed peace agreement with the Seven Party Alliance and future of Maoist armed cadre.
Speaking chaste Hindi, and at times English, Prachanda said,"Terms and conditions of the historic agreement has been set."This could set to rest most speculation on the accord itself.
According to Prachanda, till election for Constituent Assembly takes place both — People's Liberation Army as well as Nepal Army — would be confined to barracks. Both would surrender arms in equal proportion under UN supervision. After the election, integration of both armies would take place.
"Old army will be democratised and PLA will be professionalised before integration takes place,"he said. He assured naysayers in India that changes in Nepal should not be seen with suspicion. India is, and would, remain Nepal's closest ally.
Why is the top leadership of Maoists not joining the interim government? The real answer came when Prachanda admitted that there was a lot of expectation from the Maoists but the top leadership needed to concentrate on mobilising masses for the final election. Would he then become president?"
It is not about individual's interest. But the president would have executive powers,"he said, leaving some hints.
What if the verdict during the election is in favour of monarchy, even a ceremonial one? Would Maoists resort to arms?"
No. First we do not think people would want monarchy. There is a genuine desire to dismantle monarchy and every institution associated with it. Even now monarchy might be down but is not out.
But in case verdict is in favour of monarchy we would go to the people and explain to them about the mistake they have committed."
He was dismissive of allegations that Maoists of India and Nepal are preparing a Red corridor from Pashupati to Tirupati."This is a canard spread by certain religious fundamentalist groups in India who do not want monarchy to end."What about the ISI link?"We never had any link with them.
At the beginning of our struggle we were approached indirectly but we refused to get associated in any way," he said.
In socialist Nepal, Prachanda could be president
New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS) Appearing in public in India for the first time in years, Nepal's top Maoist Prachanda Saturday unveiled his vision of a 'multi-party socialist democracy' for his country, saying he was not averse to becoming its first executive president for 'some time'.
The monarchy would have no role in the new Nepal and the country's army would number no more than 30,000 soldiers, Prachanda told a press conference on the sidelines of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here.
Giving a firm indication that the bruising seven-year Maoist insurgency would end, Prachanda said a peace agreement with the country's ruling seven party alliance would be signed Tuesday, following which an interim government would come up and elections held for a constituent assembly in May-June.
Saying he would not participate in the interim government, he said he was yet to make up his mind about contesting the elections - a clear indication he had other things in mind.
Asked whether he hoped to be president of a republican Nepal, he replied: 'If my party and the people decide (so)... then maybe for some time.'
On the roadmap for Nepal's future, Prachanda said the Maoists and the seven party alliance had arrived at an understanding 'but due to technical difficulties have not been able to sign an agreement. This we will do Nov 21.
'Once that happens, we will end the insurgency and hand over our arms to the UN monitors. We will confine our militia to our camps and the Nepalese Army would have to go into the barracks.
'After the elections, the new government will integrate the two cadres and create a new army. It will not comprise more than 30,000 men. We are a poor country and need the money for developmental purposes,' the New Delhi-educated Maoist maintained.
Prachanda's address at the Hindustan Times summit, where his speech was mainly confined to ideological issues, was heard with rapt attention by an estimated 600-strong invited audience that included diplomats and Rahul Gandhi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi's son.
During the course of the address, the Maoist took pot shots at democracies in South Asia, which he described as 'meaningless farces' with 'people only participating in elections every few years'.
Dressed in a blue T-shirt and steel gray suit, Prachanda spoke mainly in English during the press conference, which drew some 100 journalists from the national and international media.
Speaking about his concept of a 'multiparty socialist state', he said this might not have worked in the past but the Maoists would attempt to redefine this in Nepal.
'We will revitalise social democracy because this is the only model that can work for Nepal. There is a vigorous debate on as to how we can do this,' Prachanda asserted.
'Our aim will be to create a Left Democratic Front comprising all schools of political thought,' he declared, which prompted the immediate response as to who would make up the opposition.
'Well, there are some politicians who still support the king. They will form the opposition.'
Holding that he foresaw 'no role at all for the king, who will live as a common citizen' in the new dispensation, Prachanda expressed confidence that 90 percent of the Nepalese people shared his view.
'The king has done a number of terrible things. The people are not prepared to forgive him. Anyway, his fate will be decided by the constituent assembly.'
What if the electoral verdict proved otherwise and the numbers were tilted in favour of the king? 'That will not happen. That I am sure of,' Prachanda maintained.
Asked about his relations with the Indian government, he described these as cordial in the light of New Delhi's 'changed position' on Nepal.
At the same time, he vehemently denied any links, ideological or otherwise, with the Maoist movement in India but said he would welcome ties with Indian political parties 'including the CPI-M (Communist Party of India-Marxist)' that firmly backed his struggle against the Nepalese monarchy.