Top leaders of the UCPN (Maoist) differed on what ailed the party and how to move ahead at the national conference that kicked off in Biratnagar on Thursday, according to leaders and local reports.

Inaugurating the conference in the eastern city, party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ said the party organisation needed to be revamped to make it nimble.

‘Socialist revolution’

The former Prime Minister said the party needed to stick to the direction given by the party’s general convention in Hetauda – to complete the “socialist revolution.”

The party chairman was responding to his bête noire in the party — Dr. Baburam Bhattarai — who stressed that the party needed to change its course given the “new situation,” according to UCPN (Maoist) Central Committee member Ram Karki.

Mr. Bhattarai has called for a change in direction – many see this as his reference to change the party’s leadership by replacing Prachanda – since the UCPN (Maoist) suffered defeat in the second Constituent Assembly election in November last year. His posts on Facebook and Twitter have been consistent on the theme of “transformation.”

Mr. Karki told The Hindu over phone that Dr. Bhattarai, also a former PM, said the party had effectively adopted “capitalism” and needed to move ahead accordingly.

“But we need a new direction to move ahead since the current approach cannot deal with challenges,” Dr. Bhattarai reportedly said.

Another leader, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, also spoke about the need for transformation but stopped short of calling for change in leadership.

Mr. Shrestha also called for change even if Mr. Prachanda remained the leader. His stance is a relief to the party chairman who has come under intense pressure from the Bhattarai camp in the party in recent times. The national conference comes nearly two years after the party’s general convention in Hetuda.

Some 1,500 delegates are attending the conference, according to the conference coordinator Gopal Kiranti.