KATHMANDU, June 6: The name of the country´s largest political party is Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), but it might not remain ´unified´ for very much longer, going by recent developments.
The history of the UCPN(Maoist) is full of intra-party feuding. But despite all internal tensions at different times, the party has averted a split in the past.
However, with rift continuing to dog the country´s largest party, the question now is whether it could again avoid a possible split.
The rift this time is not limited to the party´s Central Committee as in the past, but has reached down to the party´s lowest organizational structure - the cell committees.
Marxism is the guru-mantra keeping the Maoist party united. But this time, the establishment faction led by Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the rebel faction led by Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya differ fundamentally over the interpretation of that basic mantra.
The Dahal faction now says that Baidya has interpreted Marxism as religious scripture that can never be changed. Baidya, however, argues that Marxist class struggle is not class coordination and accuses Dahal of deviating from the party´s earlier stance.
Another bond that has been keeping the party intact is its political line. The Baidya faction believes that the action plan of peace and constitution will ultimately lead to a people´s revolt whereas Dahal has taken that plan as a tactical line. This difference in understanding and adopting of the peace process and constitution making has become one of the primary reasons for the two factions choosing their own ways.
Similarity in political line and ideology had earlier created emotional bonding between the two factions. But with differing understandings of the party line and ideology, this bonding no longer exists.
The conflicting views came to the fore mainly during the Palungtar plenum in November-December, 2010. The plenum created a major rift among the cadres as the factions led by Baidya, Dahal and Vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai respectively presented differing views on how the party regards India. While Baidya termed India the ´main enemy´, Bhattarai said internal reactionary forces were the ´main enemy´. Dahal agreed with both.
After much deliberation during the plenum and the following Central Committee meeting, the party adopted an action plan of continuing with the peace process and constitution making and opting for ´people´s revolt´ in case the action plan did not work out. The party combined the papers presented by Baidya and Dahal while Bhattarai wrote a note of dissent.
But, during another Central Committee meeting, Dahal sided with Bhattarai in favour of peace and constitution making. This time, Baidya wrote the note of dissent.
Though the differences were quietly aired then, they created a major rift between the factions led by Dahal and Baidya, and this has now reached a boiling point. The party remained theoritically intact, but the emotional bonding had come to an end.
The differences became more evident after the Baidya faction began to establish parallel committees at the cadre level, even down to the cell committees, the grassroot-level entities of the party.
"It will be very difficult to keep the party intact once parallel cell committees are formed," says Om Prakash Pun, Central Committee member.
Not only parallel committees, accusations and counter-accusations between the two factions have reached a new high since the past few months.
The Baidya faction began to call Dahal a ´red renegade´ after the latter decided to hand over weapons and PLA personnel to the Nepal Army. Baidya felt that the deal was against the norms of integration as demanded and decided by the party, and termed Dahal´s decision on the handover a ´total surrender´.
The Dahal faction, however, accused Baidya of being ´anti peace and constitution´ and ´dogmatic´.
Just as there is a saying that one should not eat so much as to leave no space for a good drink of water, one should leave some space for talks again when there is a quarrel, says Khagaraj Bhatta, who is close to Bhattarai. "But both sides have left no space for talks again."
Will Dahal resignation save party unity?
Though some reports have suggested that Dahal was ready to step down as party chairman for the sake of unity, one of his close confidants claimed that he never said such a thing. However, close Dahal aide Biswa Bhakta Dulal told Republica that the chairman´s resignation could be discussed as an option if this would ensure party unity.
Yet another close Dahal confidant, Haribol Gajurel, said Maoist and Prachanda have already become established as synonyms. "How can they separate from each other?" questioned Gajurel.
The Baidya faction has termed this ´resignation offer´ a new card for defaming them, saying it has been played to portray them as power hungry.
"As both the peace process and constitution making have now failed, Chairman Dahal should step down on moral grounds," says Santosh Budha Magar of the Baidya faction. "Resignation is just a technical aspect, as the main thing is that the political line needs to be maintained to keep the party intact."
The Baidya faction has gone as far as to demand the chairman´s apology in public for failing to implement the party´s action plan on peace and constitution, and accept his (Baidya´s) revolutionary line. Dahal for his part has asked Baidya to apologize for taking a wrong stance, as the constitution making process was still underway.
With the current blame game reaching a point of no return, a split in the party is now imminent. This is even more evident with the Baidya faction calling for a ´national gathering´ and Dahal responding with a call for a ´party plenum.´
Those following the history of Nepal´s communist parties believe that such gatherings of cadres are only held when the party needs to take crucial decisions.
However, the leaders of both sides believe that there is a slight possibility of party unity if they feel a threat from external forces to the existence of both sides.
"If there had been no threats from India and King Gyanendra, the party would have split during the Central Committee meeting at Chunbang (in 2005)," says Shyam Kumar Budha Magar, a Maoist brigade commissar who has not sided with any faction. "The Maoists can still remain united if both Baidya and Dahal feel there is an external threat."
Gajurel agrees with Budha Magar. "The party would have split during Chunbang," he said. "But Dahal came up with a magic formula of ´external threat´ and kept the party united."
Gajural hopes Dahal comes up with a similar formula again.
Until then, the cadres of the two factions will remain emotionally detached from each other, waiting for the announcement of a virtual split.