Dahal is top leader as jamboree ends

  • Bhattarai, Shrestha elected UCPN (M) vice-chairmen, Bogati made Gen Secy

HETAUDA, FEB 09 -

As the UCPN (Maoist) wrapped up its seventh General Convention (GC) here on Friday, the party elected Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal as its chairman.

At the seven-day jamboree that adopted a strategy of peaceful politics to accomplish a ‘new capitalist revolution,’ Dahal was once again able to consolidate his power with support from the rank and file. The previous GC at Madi in Chitwan in November 1991 had elected Dahal as the general secretary.

The Maoists waged a decade-long armed struggle under Dahal’s leadership and entered mainstream politics after signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in November 2006. Friday’s fresh mandate entrusts on Dahal the responsibility to lead the party for the next five years.

The GC also re-elected Baburam Bhattarai and Narayan Kaji Shrestha as the Vice-chairmen and Posta Bahadur Bogati as the General Secretary.

PM Bhattarai had proposed Dahal continuing as the chairman, while Deputy Prime Minister Shrestha supported the proposal in the first meeting of the

98-member Central Committee (CC) elected at the GC. The appointments of four office bearers and members of the CC were endorsed through a voice vote in the closed session.

“My reappointment as the chairman comes at a time when there are serious challenges on the way to nation building. I will work to unify the party and the nation and institutionalise agendas of political change,” Dahal told cadres at the end of the convention. He said the party will now begin dialogue with other parties to ensure fresh Constituent Assembly (CA) elections within Jestha 15 (May 29) by forming an election government under the serving chief justice.

The General Convention was extended for a day following differences among leaders over candidates to be elected in the 151-member CC.

The party has decided to give full shape to the CC, the Standing Committee and the Politburo later and appoint other office bearers, including secretaries and the treasurer, after discussions with party leaders.

Many party leaders and cadres are dissatisfied over the composition of the CC. They said that ‘those who have made sacrifices and participated in the people’s war’ were not given roles in the new set up. They said the formation of the CC through elections rather than power sharing between the top three leaders–Dahal, Bhattarai and Shrestha—would have given proper space to ‘devoted’ leaders.There are 27 leaders in the new CC who joined the Maoist party after unity with the CPN-Unity Centre led by Shrestha in 2010. Newly-elected CC member and former deputy commander of the PLA Chandra Prakash Khanal ‘Baldev’ said many leaders have expressed dissatisfaction over the appointment of leaders who were not directly involved in the armed struggle.

Altogether, 28 leaders close to PM Bhattarai have made it to the CC, claimed a prime ministerial aide. Party insiders maintain that there is not much ground in the ‘claims and counter claims’ as many leaders have changed camps in recent months.

Former Standing Committee member Janardan Sharma said that all the 98 members in the CC were close to Dahal.

The party is preparing to appoint a minimum of three to a maximum of five secretaries to strike a balance in power sharing in the party.

Aspirants for the secretary’s posts are senior leaders Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Barsha Man Pun, Giriraj Mani Pokharel and Hisila Yami. Women delegates have piled up pressure on the leadership to ensure at least one representative in the office bearers body. They expressed displeasure, saying that the party failed to appoint 33 percent women representatives in the CC.

“We made sacrifices and thought people who had made a greater contribution would be entrusted with responsibilities in the party,” said former lawmaker Balawati Sharma. Yami, Onsari Gharti, Kamala Rokka, Anjana Bishenkhe, Sashi Shrethsa and Sabina Aryal are the women representatives in the new CC.

Addressing the closed session, Dahal vowed that more women will be inclulded in the party leadership when they give a final shape to the CC. Most of the 4,100 delegates attending the gathering had already left when Dahal came on stage to deliver his closing speech.

Meanwhile, at the convention, the party failed to resolve two outstanding issues–  its position on India and the controversial Bilateral Investment Promotion Protection Agreement (BIPPA) signed by PM Bhattarai with India in 2011 and the alleged misappropriation of funds at PLA cantonments. Dahal vowed that the party will hold an extended plenum within six months to finalise its position on India and the BIPPA.

Maoist leaders and cadres were deeply divided after the political document presented by Dahal remained ‘silent’ on ‘foreign interference’ and avoided terminologies like ‘Indian expansionism.’ Dahal and Bhattarai stood together in support of BIPPA, while another Vice-chairman Shrestha said the party should formally disown the agreement ‘signed against the country’s national interests.’ A statement issued at the end of the GC calls on the government to take steps to revise ‘unequal treaties’ signed with India. The Maoists are in favour of a revision of the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty signed with India. However, no concrete steps to this effect were initiated by the party when it led the government under Dahal in 2008 and after Bhattarai came to power in 2011.

Regarding the irregularities at the PLA cantonments, the party’s investigation report was not disclosed at the GC after the leadership argued that it was yet to give a final shape to the report. Dozens of former PLA combatants shouted slogans at the GC hall on Friday afternoon against corruption at the hands of their commanders. General Secretary Bogati, who had led the probe panel, told the convention that the commanders used funds provided by the government as per their individual will. He urged the party to take action against them.

Party leader Amik Sherchan, who is now close to Dahal, submitted a report on the property details of senior leaders. He said many leaders did not cooperate with the investigations and were hesitant in in filling up the forms within the deadline. A committee led by Sherchan has said it failed to find any investment made by Dahal in the house he lives in at Lazimpat and the Mukti Towers located in New Baneshwor that actually belongs to businessman Ajaya Sumargi. The panel said it received 79 complaints and has recommended action against ‘some leaders’

for their involvement in financial irregularities.

Throughout last week, this industrial town of Hetauda turned into a sea of red as communist flags flutterred all over and Maoist cadres and supporters filled the areas.

As delegates started returning home, many of them said they doubt if the party will take the ‘right track.’

“We have raised serious questions on the working style and deviation in leadership. Leaders have pledged to improve themselves, but we will closely monitor their actions,” said a representative from Dang.

Singers from Samana Pariwar, the party’s cultural wing, also complained that leaders did not allow them to speak, while they remained silent on the problems of artists and singers who sacrificed their lives for the people’s war. Though they sang a song related to victory of the Nepali people, their dissatisfaction was clearly visible. Dahal immediately responded to their concerns, saying that the party accords high priority to their contribution and that it will address their concerns.

 

Posted on: 2013-02-09 08:31