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Maoist rival camps jockey for key posts in Nepal
Publication Date : 04-02-2013
At their seventh General Convention , which started on Saturday, rival factions of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN-Maoist) are making a strong bid to consolidate their positions in the party’s organisational structure.
There are no fundamental differences on the party’s ideological line, but the focus of top leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Baburam Bhattarai and Narayan Kaji Shrestha has been on building their organisational strengths.
Disputes over key positions in the party’s organisational structure have not been resolved and internal deliberations among top leaders took up a good part on Sunday.
According to leaders, Dahal will continue his stronghold in the party machinery, from the centre to the grassroots level. Multiple sources claim that among 3,500 representatives and observers participating in the convention, more than 70 per cent are from Dahal’s faction, with 20 per cent from the Bhattarai faction and 10 from Shrestha’s.
PM Bhattarai’s position in the party has improved, according to leaders, though he is not in a position to challenge the party chief.
"Our position in the party’s organisational structure has significantly improved,” said leader Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, an aide to Bhattarai.
The most contentious issue among the rival factions is the formation of the party’s Office Bearers. Dahal is most likely to be re-elected chairman and Bhattarai and Shrestha as vice-chairmen, but leaders of the rival factions are competing to bring in their loyalists in three key positions—general secretary, secretary and treasurer. If Dahal does succeed in his plan to rope in supporters for the Office Bearers’ team, he will continue his domination in the party’s top policy-making body.
Dahal is rooting for aide Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who has been “purposefully” entrusted with the responsibility of the party’s organisational department recently, as general secretary. Though Bhattarai seems set against Mahara, his faction lacks a deserving candidate for the general secretary’s post. In the absence of an agreeable candidate, Bhattarai could back current secretary Post Bahadur Bogati, who is also a Dahal aide, as the new general secretary.
"Though Bogati is not the number one choice for the Bhattarai faction, it’s a question of choosing the least worst,” said a leader, indicating Bhattarai’s strong opposition to Mahara’s candidacy.
If Bogati is elevated as general secretary, Dahal could yet propose Mahara as secretary, which will then make the field very crowded. Both the Bhattarai and Shrestha factions are gunning for their own candidates for the secretary’s post, with Bhattarai proposing Rayamajhi while Shrestha pushing for Giriraj Mani Pokhrel. “I am senior to Mahara, Bogati and Pokhrel, but I am not greedy for a position,” Rayamajhi told the Post when asked to shed light on his chances.
For the post of treasurer, according to leaders, there seems to be unanimity among all three factions, with Amik Sherchan being the common choice.
The formation of the party’s Central Committee (CC) is another contentious issue among the rival factions. A few days ago, the Office Bearers’ meeting had proposed a 151-member CC. The race for the CC remains intense, with top leaders mulling over the idea of forming a central advisory committee which will accomodate many of the contenders who do not make it to the CC.
But the issue has not been settled yet. If the 151-member CC is formed and the status quo largely adhered to, it could be a setback for the Bhattarai faction as Dahal enjoys overwhelming support in the current CC.
Before the party split on June 18 last year, it had a 148-member CC. The party’s seventh plenum had last year decided to form a 251-member general convention organising committee by dissolving the CC.
Maoist leaders said their top priority is to settle organisational disputes through consensus. However, if consensus eludes, there are also chances of elections being held to select candidates for various positions, including the CC.
The party has formed an election body at the convention in the event of such a scenario coming up.
However, the Bhattarai and Shrestha factions seem reluctant to go for the polls since Dahal maintains an overwhelming support among convention representatives, according to multiple sources.
The process of forming different structures such as the Office Bearers, Standing Committee, Politburo and the extended CC will begin from Wednesday after the endorsement of Dahal’s political document and the party’s statute.