In a gesture laden with symbolism, and being interpreted as the rising disillusionment with the political class, Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ was slapped hard by one Padma Kunwar at a tea reception hosted by the Maoists here on Friday. The reception was held to celebrate the festive season, and attended by politicians across the spectrum.
Mr. Kunwar was in a long queue to greet the politicians on the stage. After Mr. Prachanda reiterated the importance of the politics of consensus in his concluding speech, the crowds began dispersing, but the greetings continued. An eyewitness said, “While shaking hands with the chairman, this man used his left hand to slap him. Prachanda’s spectacles fell, cheeks turned red, and face white.”
Maoist party workers immediately took control of the 25-year-old Mr. Kunwar, who is reported to be from the western district of Baglung. They beat him up, before the police took him into custody.
The exact background and motivations are not yet clear. Initial reports suggested that he was a disillusioned former party worker, while other reports claimed he was a former member of the now dissolved People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Yet another report said he was the brother of a former PLA combatant.
The Maoists held a party meeting immediately. Spokesperson Agni Sapkota said, “This is a pre-planned conspiracy, aimed at disrupting the party’s attempts to reach a wider political agreement.” The party concluded Mr. Kunwar was a member of the Maoist radical splinter led by Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’. The Home Ministry has set up a panel to investigate the incident.
But the splinter Maoists rejected the allegation. Its senior leader, C P Gajurel, was reported as saying, “To our knowledge, he is not a party member. But if he is, we will take action against him.”
A few months ago, a Nepali Congress worker had attacked party president Sushil Koirala, while last year, a man had slapped Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) chairman Jhalanath Khanal. Observers were quick to see Friday’s incident as confirming the pattern of rising disillusionment with the political class for its failure to draft a constitution, or determine a future political roadmap.
In the late evening, a man in a five-star hotel lobby was heard commenting, in an agitated tone, “The top six leaders of the country deserved to be slapped again and again.”