Amid ‘ruthless self-criticism’, factional fights including physical scuffle major organizational decisions, and a call for unity, the seventh extended plenum of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) concluded on Saturday in Kathmandu. This was the first extended meet of the party after its split in mid June, when vice-chairman Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’ walked away to form his own party and accused the existing Maoist leadership of ‘revisionism’. Over 5000 delegates from 14 state committees participated in the plenum.
The meet has decided to hold a general convention of the party early next year, and has dissolved the existing central committee — the politburo; the standing committee too stands dissolved. Top office bearers would, however, continue to carry out their responsibilities.
Earlier, the plenum began with chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, in his party document, reiterating that the party decision to enter open politics in 2005 was the correct one. But while defending the party’s ‘peace and constitutional line’ and attacking the splinter Maoists, Mr. Prachanda admitted to the party having made a ‘dozen mistakes’ during this process.
These included: mishandling the Madhesi movement of 2007; absence of maturity after emerging as the single largest party after the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections; the attempt to dismiss the then army chief General Rukmangad Katawal while Maoists led the government in 2009; exhibiting excessive flexibility on army integration; and leaving contentious issues like form of government and state restructuring till the last phase of constitution writing process.
There were three key issues that emerged from the plenum delegates during the discussions.
The first criticism was directed at the Baburam Bhattarai-led government’s actions related to the issue of ‘nationalism’. The government’s decision to sign the Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA) with India during the P.M.’s visit to New Delhi in September last year was cited by many delegates as capitulation to India.
Reports that the government was considering handing over the task of upgradation of Kathmandu international airport to an Indian company was also raised by a section in the party; the government has, however, clarified that while there is an expression of interest by the Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS), no decision has been taken in this regard.
The second major issue, which led to disruptions in the proceedings, was raised by former combatants of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). They accused commanders and the leadership of being complicit in the misappropriation of funds meant for salaries of combatants and cantonment management.
While the party used to impose a monthly levy on all combatants, financial management was non-transparent; promises that the money would be returned at the end were not met. The dispute was resolved when several divisional commanders of the former PLA resigned from their posts, and a committee was set up to investigate irregularities.
The third issue was the continued acrimony between the different factions within the Maoists — even after the dissident faction led by Mr. Kiran has split. While all leaders — Chairman Prachanda, vice-chairman Bhattarai, and another vice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha ‘Prakash’ — pledged to remain united, the continued factionalism was visible.
On Friday, when a Bhattarai loyalist was not allowed to speak and heckled down by Prachanda’s supporters, the situation turned ugly. Leaders close to the chairman almost manhandled the P.M., while the P.M.’s supporters were reported to have thrown a chair at Mr. Prachanda. But the dispute was resolved after an emergency politburo meeting.
The plenum eventually ended with the P.M. calling Mr. Prachanda ‘leader of leaders’; and the party deciding that the personal secretariat members of both the leaders would be reshuffled to strengthen unity.
To counter criticism of the lifestyle of the top leaders, Mr Prachanda has also decided to give up his personal residence — which has been termed ‘lavish’ by critics — and move to accommodation given by the government to former P.M.s. He also declared that he would stop using luxurious state vehicles.
Keywords: Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) meeting, Constituent Assembly, Prachanda, People's Liberation Army, Baburam Bhattarai, Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement, BIPPA