Desertions may give UML hard time to retain cadres
THIRA L BHUSAL
KATHMANDU, Oct 8: Bir Bahadur Lama was a key member of those who broke out of the Nakkhu jail, the most notorious place for political prisoners, in Kathmandu in December, 1976.
Lama and some other leaders who managed to escape from the infamous jail by digging nearly 100-foot long tunnel, used to be talked about as mythical characters during their underground politics until 1990.
After 36 years of his political career full of struggle, he is once again in the headlines, this time for quitting CPN-UML on Friday along with a group of dissidents.
Lama and some other leaders brokeout the jail even before CPN-ML was formed and they were organized under the banner of Coordination Center that launched various aggressive anti-government activities.
It was in December 1978, they formed CPN-ML headed by CP Mainali. Later the party was unified with CPN (Marxist) led by Manmohan Adhikari and named CPN-UML.
In a serious blow to the CPN-UML, a group of noted leaders led by party vice-chairman Ashok Rai quit the party on Friday expressing their differences over the policy on naming and delineating provinces with the party establishment.
What pushed Lama to the situation where he decided to quit the party for which he had sweated blood for years to establish and consolidate.
"The leaders completely forgot to work for oppressed communities and proletariats and the trend of neo-feudalism in the party has so much deepened that we came to a conclusion that bringing about improvement in the party is just a wishful thinking," Lama told Republica.
The dissidents who left the party have vowed to form a new political force to champion ethnicity-based federalism and social inclusion. They have also claimed that thousands of UML cadres want to join the new force and that there would be a situation like opening the floodgates once they formally announce the new organization.
However, UML leaders close to establishment brush aside the claims.
UML youth leader Dr Rajan Bhattarai claimed that their dissociation wouldn´t result in serious loss in the party organization.
He argued that most of the senior leaders who left the party on Friday including Rai, Rajendra Shrestha, Rakam Chemjong, Ajambar Rai Kangmang had quit the party to form CPN-ML around 15 years ago.
A group of influential top leaders led by Bamdev Gautam, CP Mainali and Sahana Pradhan split the CPN-ML but in the next general election the party secured no seat in parliament and reunited the party.
"I am confident that UML cadres will simply not follow the same leaders yet again," said Bhattarai. "A large section of UML´s rank and file was betrayed by the leaders´ wrong decision to split the party and our friends don´t want to repeat the bitter history."
He also argued that party members wouldn´t join the new force as any organization championing "ethnic issues exclusively " has no future in Nepal.
He said any political movement, party or state run exclusively based on identity issue has not succeeded in any part of the world. "The ethnic politics will not thrive in Nepal also because of the regional geopolitical reality."
However, some leaders within the UML, who have soft corner toward the dissidents, believe that the leadership should deal the issue more seriously.
Former Energy Minister Gokana Bista said dissociation of some established leaders would definitely hurt the party if the leadership doesn´t deal it carefully.
Former Finance Minister Surendra Pandey, Bista and party Secretary Bishnu Paudel, among some other leaders, worked hard until the last to retain the leaders. With the efforts some influential dissidents including Prithivi Subba Gurung, Kiran Gurung, Dal Bahadur Rana have decided to stay in the party and Politburo member Ram Chandra Jha is on wait and watch mood.
Bista believed that UML has addressed the dissidents´ grievances to some extent and there is a lot the party can still do.
Bista, who thought that top leaders should convince party members, is however not happy with the leaders´ recent remarks.
While UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal described the party deserters as dry barks falling from a bamboo tree, another leader KP Sharma Oli compared them as balls that are being bounced by UCPN (Maoist) and foreign elements.
"Such irritating remarks would only further fuel the anger," he said.
Social Researcher Jhakendra Ghartimagar, who teaches at Saraswati Campus in Kathmandu, believed that UML would lose much to the division. "The way the dissidents have tried to publicly expose the UML as an anti-federalist party, it will definitely create a negative impression toward the party in some communities," he said.