KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI
UCPN (Maoist) leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Post Bahadur Bogati at the closing ceremony of the party’s national convention in Biratnagar on Tuesday
KATHMANDU, MAY 07 – The rift in the UCPN (Maoist) reached tipping point on Tuesday after senior leader Baburam Bhattarai rejected the newly announced Central Committee (CC) charging that Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal imposed his “unilateral” decisions.
Leaders from both Dahal and Bhattarai factions rule out an immediate split in the party. They say the party will possibly remain one until the promulgation of a new constitution but are not sure of its fate thereafter.
The national convention that was aimed at strengthening the party concluded in Biratnagar on Tuesday, only escalating tensions and widening the gap between the factions. Bhattarai and more than a dozen leaders close to him announced that they would not join the CC unless Dahal corrects his decision. Dahal proposed a 99-member CC but Bhattarai rejected it and walked out of the conclave, worsening the factional feud further.
Leaders say the dispute is ideological as well as organisational and is difficult to settle. “We haven’t yet taken extreme measures such as splitting the party. We are ready to join the CC if Dahal meets our demands,” said Devendra Poudel, a leader close to Bhattarai. With Bhattarai’s revolt, the convention failed to elect the office bearers—vice-chairman, general secretary, secretary, treasurer—except the party chairman, Dahal.
Relation between Dahal and Bhattarai, who are known as uneasy partners, was troubled after the party’s poor show in the second Constituent Assembly election. Bhattarai wanted Dahal to step down as the chairman and a new ideology formulated to reinvent the party. He was not in favour of holding the national convention but Dahal insisted on it.
Despite his dissatisfaction, leaders say, Bhattarai will not leave the party owing to a crucial role he has got in the constitution-drafting process. He was elected the chairperson of the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee of the CA two weeks ago. Owing to the dispute, the national convention scheduled to end on Monday ran into Tuesday. On Satur-day, commenting on Dahal’s political paper, Bhattarai said the chairman had failed to bring a happy wheels concrete ideological view to reinvent the party. He had said the document failed to instill new hope in the party rank and file.
Bhattarai had protested possible unification with the CPN-Maoist saying that Dahal’s position on peace and constitution was shaky and needed correction.
In his concluding remarks on Tuesday, Bhattarai said Dahal prohibited opposing views in the party and refused to give any responsibility to leaders close to him. “A practice of prohibition has been established in our party and opposing ideology and views are suppressed,” Poudel quoted Bhattarai as saying.
Bhattarai supporters Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Navaraj Subdei, Hisila Yami, Khimlal Devkota, Devendra Poudel, Prabhu Sah, Ganga Shrestha, Kumar Poudel, Devi Khadka, Balawati Sharma and Hemraj Bhandari, among others, also rejected a seat on the party’s central committee. They said they will devise a future strategy after discussion in the faction.
Leaders close to Dahal said it is too early to conclude that Bhattarai is set to split the party but his decision not to be on the CC had made them serious. “We will hold talks with Baburamji and address his concerns,” said Haribol Gajurel. “But we are worried about Bhattarai’s true intentions and the fate of the party after the general convention.”
A meeting of the central committee has been called next week over the crisis.
Shrestha with Dahal Another senior leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha, who criticised Dahal’s political paper during the convention, has backed the recently announced CC.
As Bhattarai has distanced himself from the committee, Shrestha gets closer to Dahal. Analysts say Shrestha will have greater influence in the CC with Bhattarai walking out.
Will face challenges: Chairman Dahal
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who was re-elected the party chief, has said he is ready to face the challenge posed by the decision of leaders including Baburam Bhattarai to opt out of the Central Committee. Concluding the national convention on Tuesday, Dahal expressed his confidence that Bhattarai and other protesting leaders would return to the CC soon.
“We have some difficulties owing to the absence of Baburamji in the central committee. I am ready to face the challenge,” said Dahal. He stated that the Bhattarai faction had refused to go to polls to elect central members. Dahal added that the party would move keeping in view the sentiments of the disgruntled leaders. (PR)