HETAUDA, Feb 2: The long overdue 7th general convention of the ruling Maoist party is going to be held on Saturday at Hetauda. It is the first time in 21 years that the ruling Maoists are going to hold their general convention, and the first time since they joined the peace process.
The Maoists had failed to hold their general convention announced two years ago, and the last time also it was rescheduled. The general convention will elect a new leadership of the party and set out its new political line.
Party spokesperson Agni Prasad Sapkota informed that 3,000 to 3,500 representatives, including volunteers, will participate in the general convention.
Maoist watchers, however, say that the general convention will bring in neither a new leadership nor a new political line of the party. There is little curiosity about the results of the Maoist general convention. Dahal will again lead the party and his political document will be endorsed as the party line. The same political line will continue, along with the same faces in the party leadership.
The main reason for that is that there is only one political document, the one drafted by Dahal. Vice-chairmen duo Baburam Bhattarai, who is also prime minister, and Narayan Kaji Shrestha, who is deputy-prime minister, have both backed Dahal´s document.
Party leaders Ram Karki, Sonam Sathi and Gopal Kiranti have registered separate documents. But they have not much sway over party representatives.
The last general convention was held in Madi, Chitwan in 1992 and Dahal was elected party chief. It also endorsed people´s war as the party´s political line as per the Chinese model of revolution developed by Mao Tse-tung.
But party spokesperson Sapkota claimed that the general convention will give something new to Nepal and the Nepali people.
"The general convention will determine the fate and future of Nepal and the Nepali people," claimed Sapkota at a press meet organized by the party´s sister wing, the Revolutionary Journalists Association, Hetauda chapter.
Sapkota added that the party will try to complete its Janabadi kranti [people´s revolution] peacefully, or else it will take up the path of armed revolt.
It appears that the party will bring some changes in the party organization after the general convention. It will become mass-based rather than cadre-based.
"We will form a cadre and mass-based party," Barsha Man Pun said, adding that it will be different from the Nepali Congress and CPN(UML).
The then CPN(Maoist) had stuck to their political line for 10 years. The Maoists had joined the peace process under the 12-point deal after the Chunbang meeting decided on "21st century Janabad [people´s democracy]."
Leftist analyst Mumaram Khanal said that the ruling Maoists will convert formally into a parliamentary party after the general convention.
"The general convention will not take any crucial step to break the deadlock," added Khanal.
The breakaway CPN-Maoist has already held its general convention, from January 9-15, in Kathmandu, and endorsing a political line of people´s revolt on the foundation of people´s war. Interestingly, both the UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-Maoist have announced general conventions only after their split.
Hetauda is colorful
Hetauda city and the program venue is decked out with banners, flags and general convention graffiti. The trees and walls are festooned colorfully and arches have been erected along the roads. The inauguration is to be held at Hupra Chaur and the closed session at a closed-down textile factory.
Sapkota informed that CPN(UML) chairman Jhal Natha Khanal and Nepali Congress Vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel will also address the general convention.
According to him, representatives from several foreign countries including the Chinese and Russian ambassadors are also to address general convention.
Reasons for Maoist general convention
Maoist watchers wonder why the Maoists are doing so after 21years. What are the main factors that have forced party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to hold the general convention now although he has remained at the helm continuously for the past two decades?
Why is the UCPN (Maoist) going for a general convention after two decades? How has Dahal become ready for it after 21 years? The likely reasons are many.
First, the breakaway CPN-Maoist has already held its own general convention. That general convention will threaten the legitimacy of the UCPN (Maoist), which has been run by ad-hoc committees for two decades. It also must hold a general convention to safeguard its legitimacy.
Secondly, Dahal is hobbled by party inner struggles and has a problem exercising power in the party and taking decisions. He has trouble working with the ad-hoc committees.
Thirdly, Dahal must regain strength in the party if he is to exercise strong leadership. He has to cultivate Bhattarai and Shrestha while their sway is still limited to the central committee and does not extend further down. After the general convention, he will be able to take any decision and implement them. The Bhattarai and Shrestha factions will get just a few seats and Dahal can then operate smoothly.
"Dahal is now compelled to keep Bhattarai and Shrestha happy," said Mani Thapa, a former Maoist leader. The Bhattarai and Shrestha factions will be downsized, leaving Dahal free to take decisions. Under the existing situation, he would have to share this privilege with Bhattarai and Shrestha.
Fourthly, the Bhattarai faction had earlier portrayed Bhattarai as someone who should be given the chance to exercise leadership in accordance with his ideological stature. But after becoming prime minister, Bhattarai lost his moral high ground and there are few left to counter Dahal. Before the split, the Baidya faction used to challenge Dahal, and after the general convention Bhattarai and Shresth will not be strong like now.
Fifth, only Dahal is in the race for the main leadership post.
Sixth, Dahal has never had a chance to gain an absolute majority in the party. His chance is now.
Seventh, Dahal is not the priority for foreign forces, mainly India. So, he should try to strengthen his power within the party instead.
Eighth, this is the best option for showing national and international forces that the UCPN (Maoist) is a party like the Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) which have internal democracy. The convention is also the only option for Dahal to shrug off the power-hungry tag.
Former Maoist leader Mani Thapa argued that it is a compulsion for Dahal to impress the international community, which supports liberal democracy.
Another reason is that Dahal is facing problems because a general convention has not been held for 21 years.
According to leftist analyst Khanal, there is no rift in party ideology. And there is no way Bhattarai can counter Dahal in the party committees.
"The general convention is nothing more than a shraddha, an annual ritual for remembering deceased kin," said Khanal.
Another reason is that it is his only chance to down-size party committees so that they can actually function.