Unity Among Maoist Leaders

 

Narayan Upadhyay

 

Supporters of the extreme left party - the UCPN-Maoist - and fringe Maoist parties have a reason to celebrate after the leaders and parties, who had once broken away from the mother party, returned to the old fold. The return of 10 breakaway Maoist parties saw the mother party being rechristened once again: Chairman Prachanda’s party will now be called the CPN (Maoist Centre) after many noted Maoist leaders vowed fresh allegiance, which is expected to bring back the lost edge to the mother party.

 

 Standing in national politics

The new unity has indeed jubilated the strife-torn Maoist party and its supreme leader, Prachanda. The one-after-another split in the party had weakened the party structurally and had reduced its standing in national politics.

Owing to its split some four years ago when the party ideologue Mohan Baidhya-led faction broke away, the UCPN-Maoist had suffered severe jolts in national politics. Earlier, Matrika Yadav had left the party. And vice-president Baburam Bhattarai left the party to form Naya Shakti (New Force). The defection of these dissident leaders had indeed blunted the edge of Prachanda’s party in national politics.

Similarly, the splits had indeed exposed the darker side of the extreme left party, which had waged a decade-long People’s War against the state. The persisting controversies and rising differences among the Maoist leaders and their chairman had led to the deepening crisis in the UCPN-Maoist. As a result, the party boat was rocked by successive splits as leaders like Baidhya, CP Gajurel, Netra Bikram Chand, Pampha Bhusal and many others decided not to stay with chairman Prachanda.

The unity of the dissident leaders has, however, surprised many who had been witness to the earlier splits. Before splitting the party, the leaders of the breakaway parties had heaped expletives on the same Prachanda and their mother party, to which they have now decided to join. Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal, a key to the present merger, was very vocal against the chairman during and after he and Baidhya broke away from their mother party. Thapa had berated the chairman as a ‘Red Traitor’ (Lal Gaddar) and called him an agent of the Indian intelligence agency, RAW. Thapa was highly annoyed when chairman Dahal schemed to help Baburam Bhattarai get the prime minister’s post with the help of several Madhesi parties.

It was no secret that Thapa and Bhattarai behaved like foes despite enjoying higher posts in the party then. In the aftermath of the split in the UCPN-Maoist, caused by Baidhya and Badal, many party watchers used to say Baidhya’s breakaway party would join the mother party if and when Bhattarai left the mother party. These people seem vindicated to some extent after Badal joined the party less than a year after Bhattarai walked away from the same party.

The splits in the party had indeed left the mother party in a spot. The Prachanda-led party had faced heavy defeat in the election to the second Constituent Assembly in 2014, which relegated the then largest party into third position. The election saw two major parties of the nation - the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML - return to first and second position in the parliament, much to the chagrin of the extreme left.

In the meantime, court cases against Maoist leaders have started growing in recent times. According to a report, there are 38 court cases registered against the Maoist leaders that include Prachanda, Bhattarai, Badal, Baidhya and several other senior party functionaries.

The trepidation of having to face prosecution in the courts for war-era crimes and violation of human rights has prodded the once feuding leaders to return to the old fold. The war-era cases appear the foremost reason goading the splinter groups into joining hands with the mother party.

On the other hand, royalists and pro-Hindu elements are also raising their ugly heads in recent times, while fear is rife that republicanism and federalism, the major agendas of the Maoists, would not take effect in the nation because inimical elements are ganging up to fail these two goals, too.

In short, the Maoists of different hues and stripes were apprehensive about the very survival of their parties, their ideologies and the safety of their leaders, goading them to join forces to consolidate their position against their adversaries.

Despite all the pomp and show, the unity cannot be called complete though. Maoist ideologue Baidhya, firebrand youth leader Netra Bikram Chand, and once very influential leader Bhattarai are not likely to return to the newly christened Maoist Centre any time soon. These leaders still have their grudges against Prachanda, which would keep them away from the mother party. It must be noted that after Badal joined the Prachand-led party, Baidhya rapped “revisionist” Badal and even said that Badal’s defection had purified his party.

With the unity, the Prachanda-led Maoist Centre now faces new conundrums over the nomination of leaders who will be taking different posts. With the arrival of many noted leaders to the party fold, the task of dividing the party responsibilities to all of them and to those already enjoying high posts is an uphill task for Prachanda.

To satiate the urge of all these hopefuls, the party has decided to form a 599-member central working committee, while it has formed a nine-member party headquarter to conduct the party works till the central committee is formed. One can only imagine how the future of the party, with so many aspirants, would unfold. It is likely that the old wound - differences among the party functionaries over posts and perks - would return to haunt the party.

 

Differences

If we look at the communist movement of the nation, we unequivocally find that the movement is marred by differences among the leaders, resulting in subsequent splits. The recent unity of the Maoists too could result in some kind of dissatisfaction among the rank and file. Dissatisfaction among the leaders of the Prachanda-led party, who have already been enjoying respectable posts, has somewhat widened after the party leadership decided to hand over a few key positions to the newcomers. Such differences are likely to deepen and may lead to another round of split in the party.

Prachanda must be aware of this truth and should work not to let the differences among his understudies rise up to a point where dissatisfied leaders have no option but to call it quits. If one Badal is back in the party fold, one Barsha Man may leave, if the differences are allowed to rise.

 

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