KATHMANDU, July 29: The ruling UCPN (Maoist) that has lately seen much upheaval has once again announced a date in February for its general convention to elect a new party leadership, the third such announcement in 22 years.
However, a diversity of views exists concerning this development. For some the announcement was a tactical response to a similar announcement made by the breakaway CPN-Maoist to hold its general convention a month earlier, rather than a sincere move towards a truly democratic party.
But for others, Dahal is keen on the convention since it will not only be taking place with the most favorable timing and political environment for him but also the gathering will provide him a golden opportunity to fend off accusations of holding the topmost position in the party for 22 years without the mandate of a general convention.
For Ram Karki, an influential party leader, the announcement was nothing more than a spontaneous reaction to the announcement of the CPN-Maoist led by Mohan Baidya that it would hold a general convention of its own to put the mother party to shame.
It is worthless to hope that Dahal, who cancelled his announcements of general conventions twice in the last 22 years on the pretext of unfavorable situations, will be true to his word at a time when his hold in the party is fast waning and his popularly in the party is probably at its lowest after remaining chief since 26 years ago, said Karki.
In addition, the Dahal faction will never be genuinely ready for any sort of general convention as long as they do not settle the hefty financial embezzlements in which they are directly involvement, said Karki, who has been a vocal critic of Dahal´s policy within the party.
Such huge and shameful financial irregularities, along with many other ills, would never have occured had the party organized a timely general convention, he said.
Similarly, political analyst and former Maoist CC member Mumaram Khanal termed the announcement merely a poly to prevent the possible exodus of party cadres from the mother party to the new party. “After becoming so unpopular among the party rank and file, the leadership has opted for this tactic in hopes that it will preserve unity within the party in anticipation of a new leadership emerging from the general convention,” said Khanal, agreeing with most of Karki´s arguments.
Kumar Shah, editor of the Red Star, a fortnightly magazine published by the Maoist party, shared similar pessimism over the chances of a convention and termed the announcement another bid to cheat party cadres again.
Party insiders say that Dahal´s inability to issue a unanimous denounciation of the Baidya faction for its decision to split the party is another reason why Dahal himself is not keen on the convention. According to Dahal´s close aides, he had called the recently concluded plenum in the hope that it sould lambast the Baidya faction for splitting the party and that would encourage Baidya´s cadres to come back to the mother party. However, the hefty financial irregularities hijacked the entire plenum agenda, irregularities that the Baidya faction had been raising since long.
Former PLA division commander Suk Bahadur Roka Magar has some different views over the possibility of organizing a general convention. The fate of the upcoming general convention depends upon whether Baburam Bhattarai will remain in power or not. There will be no general convention if the Bhattarai government falls, he says. “If Bhattarai remains in power, which has been his biggest priority, he will wholeheartedly support Dahal and in that situation Dahal will be ready for the general convention in the hope that he will retain the chairmanship of the party,” he said.
Another reason for Dahal´s reluctance is that he is very weak in terms of the ideology driving the party. Before the Chunbang meeting Baidya´s line of capturing state power by force used to prevail. However, all that changed after Chunbang, with the party adopting Bhattarai´s line of partnering with pro-multiparty forces to topple the monarchy and accepting competitive multiparty democracy.
“As the party is run under the political line formulated by Bhattarai, it will be difficult for Dahal to justify his claim to leadership,” said a leader close to Bhattarai.
However, there are many who dismiss such arguments and stress that Dahal himself is enthusiastic about a general convention. Analyst Khanal said that Dahal will seize the convention as an opportunity to activate the entire file and rank of the party that has been jobless and inactive. More than that, Dahal´s failure to organize such a convention will instigate party cadres to move over to the Baidya-led new party that has already announced its general convention," said Khanal.
Dahal will be eager for his convention as he sees no one challenging his bid for the chairmanship and also there is no factional opponent in the party following the Baidya faction´s exit, a leader close to Dahal said.
More than that, Dahal is keen to wipe out the accusation that he has remained in the topmost position for 22 years without ever holding a general convention.
This is a good opportunity to prove that he has the mandate and capability to lead the party because there is the least chance that either Bhattarai or Narayankaji Shrestha will stand up to challenge Dahal," said a leader close to Dahal.