HETAUDA, Feb 8: Probably, there are few political parties like the CPN (Maoist) that went through umpteen upheavals. CPN (Maoist) waged the bloodiest insurgency in Nepal´s history with the aim of abolishing monarchy and turning Nepal into a communist country.
But, after a decade of war, it was forced to abandon one of its goals after the party realized that mission of capturing state powers through military power was impossible. This realization left the warring party with no option other than forging a compromise with the parliamentary parties that led to the 12-point agreement.
As per the accord, the rebel party agreed to accept competitive politics while the parliamentary parties acquiesced to their idea of a republican set up.
The people´s movement of 2006 achieved both the goals and paved the way for the CPN (Maoist) to join the parliamentary politics. Though the Constituent Assembly (CA) election made the CPN (Maoist) the largest party and its chairman a powerful political figure, lack of elected leadership and political ideology endorsed by general convention, has given grounds for the skeptics to raise questions on internal democracy and long-term objectives of the party.
In this aspect, the ongoing seventh general convention of the party in Hetauda, as many political leaders were expecting, has come as a good opportunity for the party to show its commitment to competitive politics and has a clear political roadmap. Addressing the inaugural gathering in Hetauda, top leaders of Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) had expressed hope that the convention would be a turning point for the party.
“I am hopeful that the current political line will help to the Maoists take a democratic path and thrive in the democratic system in Nepal,” NC Vice-president Ram Chandra Paudel had said.
The general convention not only marks a major ideological shift in the party through transformation into a parliamentary party, but also formally recognizes its split with the Mohan Baidya led faction, which formed a new party - CPN-Maoist - accusing Dahal of betraying the revolution.
But as the party that once denounced multiparty politics is set to chart a new political course, the much-touted general convention holds little enthusiasm among party cadres. The reason, according to participants is that everyone knows the two much-awaited outcomes of the convention -the future political line of the party and new leadership.
“The convention is just a ritual. We all have been called here to witness a well-orchestrated drama and clap our hands to endorse the changes,” said a group cadres from Rolpa and Rukum. As frustrations run high among cadres, some representatives left the venue to return home while others joined the breakaway CPN-Maoist on the fourth day of the ongoing general convention.
Corruption: A hot potato
For the party that seen so many upheavals after it renounced violence and joined peaceful politics in 2006, high-profile corruption cases involving almost all top leaders of the party continued to be the dominant issue in the convention.
Commenting on the political document presented by Dahal, many representatives demanded a thorough investigation into financial irregularities in the party and have urged the party leadership to make public the final reports of the two high-level probe commissions led by party Secretary Post Bahadur Bogati and leader Amik Sherchan. They also raised voices against the lavish lifestyles of the top party leaders. But as the convention enters the fourth day, there is no indication if their voices would be heard.
The comment from the leadership was as usual. “The representatives have expressed suspicion and concern that the party would close its eyes to the sacrifice made by the martyrs, the disappeared and the party cadres,” said party spokesperson Agni Sapkota.
On one or the other occasion the factional divide among the Dahal, Baburam Bhattarai and Narayan Kaji Shrestha camps continued during the convention. Dahal faction demanded self-criticism from the Bhattarai and Shrestha camps for staging the Dhobighat meeting, terming it as an act aimed at bringing about party split. But Bhattarai faction countered it by demanding to removal of a statement mentioned in Dahal´s document which terms that party action taken against Bhattarai during ´Labang meeting´ was ´disciplinary ´one. They argued that the action was purely ideological based.
Bhattarai also expressed displeasure with Dahal for portraying him in a bad light. “I have never challenged Dahal´s leadership. I accept him as the party leader,” said Bhattarai. However, he was quick to add that the party should encourage collective leadership. He also objected to the tendency in the party to portray him as an “agent” of India.
The principal enemy
The representatives also asked the leadership to name the principal enemy of the party, something that is deemed essential for formulating political line of a communist party. “Who is the principal enemy? India, Nepali Congress or *UML,” they asked. Many youth representatives wondered how the party would move ahead without distinguishing between a friend and foe.
Likewise, Dahal´s proposal to hold a referendum on the issue of border disputes also drew strong criticism, some saying that the proposal could turn Nepal into Fiji or Sikkim.
Similarly, dissatisfactions were also raised for not clearly praising the 10-year-long insurgency. “The people´s war has been devalued," said Suk Bahadur Roka Magar, referring to reports of the group leaders. Representatives objected to the BIPPA agreement with India but Prime Minister Bhattarai defended the accord, saying that it was necessary to ensure industrial development of the country.
Dahal to emerge as political heavyweight
There is little doubt that Chairman Dahal will emerge as the most powerful and undisputed leader of the party. The convention will also make him the first elected chairman of the party in decades. Moreover, the convention will endorse Dahal´s political document with minor changes to appease the Bhattarai and Shrestha factions.
Probably, Prime Minister Bhattarai will have to wait for an opportune time to stake claim to party leadership. Both the Bhattarai and Shrestha factions will see their influence wane.