Pushpa Kamal Dahal has shifted from the Prachandapath to the democratic path in Nepal. He was sworn in as Nepal`s Prime Minister on Monday. Better known as Prachanda (the fierce one), Dahal waged a protracted bloody war which left thousands of people dead in a bid to create a communist state. He was responsible for turning a ragtag band of rebels into a fully equipped military outfit capable of bringing a government to its knees.
Prachandra was a terrorist with a difference, though. He was aware of limits to his violent campaign, which could not drag on forever. He was wise enough to choose the path of peace in 2006 and to win the hearts and minds of the people. The transition of the Maoist movement to mainstream politics was, by and large, smooth and in April, Prachanda secured the largest number of seats at the assembly elections. He, backed by several political parties, became the choice of the governing Constituent Assembly for premiership.
Prabhakaran and Prachanda, as well as their goals, are poles apart and their movements as different as chalk and cheese but Prachanda`s transformation into a democrat as well as the subsequent cessation of mindless bloodletting should serve as a lesson for Prabhakaran and others embroiled in prolonged violent campaigns.
The success of the Maoist military campaign was mainly due to Prachanda`s ability to separate the so-called end from the means. But, in the case of Prabhakaran, the end and the means have become one and the same terrorism. If he unleashed violence to live at the inception of his struggle, today he is living to unleash violence.
Prachanda cautiously avoided being a prisoner of his own violence. He was amenable to change and compromise. Prabhakaran has no escape from his violence and remains intransigent.
A common mistake that many make when comparing the LTTE with the other terrorist groups that have eschewed violence like the IRA is to ignore the absence of a political track in the LTTE`s strategy. Its political wing is only a fa ade.
The LTTE has gained a tremendous boost for its terrorist cause by shutting out a political option, which would have led to the evolution of a fully-fledged political wing like Sinn Fein. Prabhakaran has carefully seen to it that the energies of his outfit won`t be expended on political work lest is should create conditions for the emergence of an alternative leadership, which is anathema to Prabhakaran. In his thinking, he is the LTTE and the LTTE he. Therefore, he has eliminated even his trusted lieutenants like Mahattaya and systematically aborted all peace efforts, at the first sign of a political settlement being negotiated, as was seen from the fate of the Oslo Declaration envisaging federalism, which he scuttled in the face of opposition even from the US and the EU.
Prabhakaran also makes it a point to remind his cadres, from time to time, of his order that he be shot dead if he accepts anything less than Eelam. This kind of unwavering commitment to a cause is, however, a prerequisite for creating and maintaining a suicidal cult.
Paradoxically, the absence of a political arm has also been Prabhakaran`s biggest weakness. He is like an acrobat performing on the flying trapeze without a safety net. He may be admired by his combatants and sympathizers for his `bravery`, but the risks he runs are huge.
No outfit can go on marketing terrorism till kingdom come. It may be able to do so for sometime but when it comes under international pressure to negotiate a solution, it must be able to shift to the political track. Else, it is doomed to collapse under the weight of its own terror project.
If the LTTE had had a formidable political wing with a popular appeal, no political vacuum would have been created in the North and the East for others like Devananda, Karuna and Chandrakanthan to fill.
The Rajapaksa government has made the most of the LTTE`s political Achilles heel to tackle it militarily. The Tigers are in the soup in the Wanni but there are absolutely no grounds for the LTTE`s friends to intervene, even if they may want to. For, they are without any alternative to offer.
In 1987, India could justify its direct interference to take the LTTE off the hook, as it had a political solution to force down Sri Lanka`s throat by way of an alternative to war against terrorism and the LTTE initially indicated its willingness to accept it. Before long India realised the LTTE was not for any political solution and resorted to war to crush it, albeit in vain.
Today, neither India nor any other country wants to step in to try to stop war here, as the LTTE has demonstrated beyond any doubt that it is too intransigent to accept a reasonable solution. Nor can Prabhakaran accept, at this juncture, any of the solutions, so far offered to him including federalism, without being killed by his brainwashed men and women blindly fighting for Eelam. His attempt to gain a respite by offering a unilateral truce also failed and he must be a rather worried man confined to his bunker.
While PM Prachanda is trying his hand at democratic governance, Prabhakaran, who refused to be the Chief Minister of two merged provinces and contemptuously rejected federalism, has his empire crumbling with the army closing in on him.
For his predicament, Prabhakaran has no one to blame but himself.