The Deputy General Secretary of the CPN (Maoist Center) Barshaman Pun returned home recently after undergoing treatment in China. After returning to Kathmandu, Pun, who is considered close to Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachand’, held a conversation with the latter. The health condition of Mr Pun, the formation of the Samajbadi Front, and the Prime Minister’s visit to India were discussed in the meeting. Against this backdrop, Nepalkhabar talked to Pun on these issues. Excerpts:
You have just returned home after treatment in China. How is your health now?
I am suffering from a liver problem. It is also called a hereditary hyper-bilirubinemia, a kind of jaundice. I have completely recovered from this treatment. This is not a big problem. If you follow a normal lifestyle and eat normal food, this problem will not persist. But, given our socio-political life, it is difficult to stick to the schedule. I could not manage a more scheduled life. In my case, this is the reason why this disease flares up time and again. Now, I have the confidence that I can do party, country, and public service work regularly.
Is the treatment of this disease not available anywhere else except in China?
I have also had treatment in India. The treatment there was good. After that, I was treated twice in Bangkok (Thailand). The treatment there is also good. I also recovered from the first treatment there. There was no problem for 6-7 years of treatment.
I went to Bangkok again for the second time when the cases of coronavirus were increasing across the globe. I could not recover at that time. And from there I went to China for treatment. I was treated very well in China. And now I am back completely healthy.
While you were being treated in China, the Maoist Center formed an alliance sometimes with the UML and sometimes with the Nepali Congress. Were you 'updated' with such political developments? How did you feel about it?
While under treatment, I mainly paid attention to my health. So I could not be much 'updated' with the happenings here. Now, after returning to Nepal, I have started to be 'updated' about the political process.
The parties including Maoist Center and Nepali Congress made a commitment to the voters in the last election for five years that they will maintain political stability, to complete the rest of the peace process, to ensure social justice through good governance. We appealed to the people that this is the need of the moment. Votes were received accordingly. We are in the process of finalizing the transitional justice issues.
Once the Maoist-Congress came to the conclusion that we should sit together and work together, the alliance was formed. It was also necessary. However, as soon as the Nepali Congress backed down from its agreements, we left-wing parties came together and formed a government with the UML.
The issue of finalizing transitional justice was given priority even when Sher Bahadur Deuba was the prime minister. We have already supported the Nepali Congress for the leadership of the government for two years. It was not reasonable to give three years to the Congress again after the election.
However, the Maoist Center and the Congress have to sit together to complete the rest of the peace process including transitional justice. It is justified, even necessary.
At one point, there was doubt in the left alliance. On the other hand, the Congress felt its weakness. The Congress and the Maoist Center again agreed to continue the old alliance. I am not so 'updated' about the developments after that.
It is said that you played a role in the formation of the Left Alliance in 2074. This time, too, if you did not have to stay in China for treatment, the UML-Maoist alliance would not have been broken in the context of the presidential election.
It is natural to have different expectations about me. Because even during the alliance with the Congress, I worked continuously from start to finish. At one point of time, I warned Deuba, “The way you are thinking of aligning with someone else provided the government is not formed under your leadership, it will create a situation that we won’t be standing together.
What did Deuba answer?
"Let's think and discuss," he said. However, the situation suddenly changed. Then both (UML and Maoist Center) presidents sat to form the Left Alliance. I was also involved in facilitating it.
After forming the government together with the UML, the Maoist Center returned to the alliance with the Congress. What do you say about this?
In this regard, my opinion is not different from the opinion of the party. It is understood that left-wing parties go together due to ideological proximity. However, the present need is to finish the rest of the peace process. For this, it is necessary to take Congress, UML and other main parties into confidence.
The party's opinion is that the left-democratic forces should sit together to further strengthen the current constitution, implement the policies and principles laid down in it, and address the expectations of the people for good governance and development.
How long will the alliance with the Congress go?
This alliance will continue. No doubt about it. Because, the Congress also returned to this alliance after failing to go to another alliance. After seeing such efforts of Congress, we have formed another alliance. I don't think that the leadership of Congress will go for forming another alliance. Especially, the main opposition UML has expected to destabilize the incumbent government from time to time so as to come to power.
It seems that the Congress is suspicious about the announcement of Samajbadi Morcha!
The Congress has not expressed such doubts. Instead, it was suggested by the President of Nepali Congress and other friends to stay together or form a front if the parties hold similar views. “We have no objection to this,” said Deuba. Hence, it is not true that the Congress is distrustful of the formation of the Samajbadi Morcha.
Does the front benefit or harm the Congress?
The formation of the Samajbadi Morcha has benefited the coalition. Out of the 8-10 parties in the ruling coalition, four parties sitting together and building a certain size of power is not a bad thing for the coalition. This front was not created to suppress and harass the Congress. So, there is no reason for Congress to worry about it. Samajbadi Morcha bolsters the current ruling coalition.
If UML fails to break the alliance through Congress, it will try again through Maoist Center. Won’t UML be successful because of Prime Minister Prachanda's unpredictable character?
Now we are in an alliance. The Nepali people do not like the rapid change of alliance. We also do not think that the alliance should be changed quickly.
Was the formation of the Samajbadi Morcha an effort to unite the parties?
The parties affiliated to the Morcha are in the government and also in the Federal Parliament. We try to discuss, interact, and bring socialist forces closer on the streets and among the people.
In the past, we were a bit hasty while building the NCP. All leaders have realized this now. Left unity was necessary. But it was done in haste. There was no debate about ideas, nor was there any debate about politics and organization. There was no debate about the working style, either. With lessons learned, we are not trying to do anything in haste.
Among the parties affiliated with the front, it is heard, the unity of the Maoist Center with the CPN led by Netra Bikram Chand (Biplav) is likely. Is this true?
Since we come from the same movement and party, we also have ideological closeness with Biplavaji. However, programmatically we are different. We are inside the parliament, they are outside the parliament. However, we are in favor of bringing uniformity in the course of action. Our feelings match. But, it is not good to ask the question of what the government will do and what the parliament will do after unity. Therefore, after having ideological-political discussions, we will get further closer functionally and emotionally.
We were together for three years as 'NCP' with Madhav Nepalji, chairma of CPN (United Socialist). After the dissolution of the parliament, we also fought together on the streets against the regression, and saved the parliament. We brought the constitution on track. In this way, we have come close to the unified socialist during the struggle.
We are close to Upendra Yadavji, chairman of Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP). We are united on the issues of federalism, republicanism, inclusiveness, secularism, and social justice. In this way, we are close to the Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP) in terms of ideology and politics.
Therefore, there is ample ground for unity among the parties on the front. As Samajbadi Morcha is a front between parties that are close in terms of ideas, politics, organization, working style, and feelings, there can be unity between them.
Dr. Baburam Bhattarai is the architect of the front. But, why couldn't he be involved on this front?
We are close to Baburam Bhattaraiji in terms of practical unity or front. For five years we have been in the same election symbol. The election symbol of Baburamji's party is also the hammer and sickle.
However, due to some technical reasons, NSP could not participate in Samajbadi Morcha. Baburamji and Upendraji have recently separated. These, however, are not all the reasons why Baburamji could not be placed in the front. There are some emotional complications. Intensive discussions are going on with him for party unity. Political proposals have also been exchanged.
Prime Minister Prachanda seems to be getting closer to India, of late. How do you feel about this change in Prachanda?
First, foreign relations are a complex and sensitive subject. This issue is not like mobilizing domestic politics. Foreign relations and neighborhood relations should be conducted seriously and responsibly.
Secondly, foreign relations are mostly with those who have more neighborhood, business, and relations. The tour is also with the same country -- be it at the level of the Prime Minister or at the level of the Minister or b it at the public level or at the business level of the private sector.
More than two-thirds of our total imports and exports are with India. It is also indicative of a good relationship. Along with this there are some complications.
Where there are complications, we need to communicate quickly. Where there is a good relationship, there is also a fast exchange of visits. If there is no work, we visit once a year or rarely and exchange pleasantries, that's enough. The relationship with some countries also works like this.
Our relations with India and China are on the one hand close and friendly relations. On the other hand, where there is friendship, there are also small problems. Small problems should be discussed and resolved on a daily basis. Relations with India and China should be taken in this sense. Neighborhood relations are not entirely good or entirely bad.
Recently, there has been a good improvement in Nepal-India relations. An environment of trust has been created. There is a very good relationship at both the political level and the administrative level. This is a good thing for the country.
In spite of this, there are some problems that have come as a legacy from history or have been created now, and for their solution, there should be dialogue at different levels. Its priorities should be separated.
Efforts should be made to make the good better, if it is insufficient, to add the necessary things. I think that this should be the characteristic of Nepal-India relations.
It is not diplomatic maturity to say that a government or a prime minister is leaning somewhere because of his first visit.
Don't you think China is less prioritized while giving priority to its relationship with India?
Having a good relationship with one neighbor does not mean quarreling with another. Even in real life, there are 8-10 houses in a neighborhood. Can't we have a good relationship with ten neighbors? Going to a neighbor does not mean to tease another neighbor or to do something against him.
Prime Minister's visit to India went well. His visit to China will be soon. We also have very good relations with China. On this basis, the Prime Minister's visit to China will also be good. No one should take it otherwise.
The main thing we have to look at is whether the visit was in favor of the national interest or not.
What kinds of preparations are going on for the visit to China?
I am not fully aware of this. However, it is heard that preliminary preparations have started. The Prime Minister has also said this publicly.
He was invited by China to participate in the Boao Forum. However, he had to give a lot of time here for matters such as the presidential and vice-presidential elections. And, at that time, it was not favorable for him to visit China.
Neighborhood priority is our policy. As the government led by Prachanda is new, he will visit China at an appropriate time once the high-level leaders of both countries arrange time.