VOL. 05, NO. 01, June 17, 2011 (Ashar 03, 2068)
The main opposition party is not optimistic about the peace process and the constitution
By A CORRESPONDENT
A little more than two weeks after the extension of the constituent assembly hopes for a substantive progress in the peace process and the constitution making are fast fading.
The agreement on a time-table of disarming the former combatants and the drafting of the constitution has not moved beyond the documents the three major parties inked them soon after the dying CA was given a three-month oxygen.
Not unexpectedly, Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai lamented that the past two weeks had been “wasted.”
The main opposition Nepali Congress went one step ahead and almost concluded that the next few weeks are also unlikely to be any different.
The crucial conclave of the district committee presidents at the tourist city of Dhulikhel set the stage clear for what the party sees inevitable: neither the conclusion of the peace process nor making of the constitution.
From the party president Sushil Koirala and Sher Bahadur Deuba to district presidents and central committee members, all were in agreement – on the need to prepare for the uncertainty and confusion post the extended life of the CA.
The central leaders called upon the district leaders to prepare for “a mass movement” to “safeguard democracy”.
The latter echoed the concerns and vowed to remain vigilant.
With the Maoist leadership deeply divided on what has been agreed with the other parties including the Nepali Congress, the main opposition has little trust in the Maoists to disarm themselves ahead of the constitution.
Without seeing the former rebel outfit disarmed, the Nepali Congress does not want to lend a hand in making what it fears would be a “totalitarian” leaning constitution.
The largest political party and the only party with a separate armed force gets ready for a battle royale that threatens to reduce the country’s largest republican outfit into pieces
By SAROJ DAHAL
Even as the national consensus continues to be a favourite pastime in Nepali politics, the country’s largest party faces its worst crisis ever.
The division in the party has come out in the open and spread from the centre down to the villages – with three factions flexing their muscles.
Politburo member Devendra Poudel is candid enough, “The UCPN has already split. It is only that none has dared to make it public.”
The bluntness of the pro-Baburam Bhattarai leader is shared by the leaders of the factions led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’.
While Chairman Prachanda faction blames the two vice-chairmen for the crisis in the party, the latter hold Prachanda responsible.
Said a pro-Kiran leader, Haribhakta Kadel, “it’s up to Prachanda whether he wants the party to remain united.”
For this he will have to give up his current line of priority to peace and constitution and the executive authority of the party.
He is not willing to give up any.
This is why he has called an urgent central committee meeting where he hopes to have his way at the cost of the two vice chairmen.
The central committee meeting due next week is sure to witness a key battle between the Prachanda faction and the factions led by the two vice-chairmen, although it may not necessarily be a decisive one.
Bhattarai and Kiran factions have own mutual differences, but they are one to keep what they see as the opportunistic and arbitrary Prachanda in check.
Prachanda does not see his future if his powers are curtailed and the dissents are allowed unabated.There have however been serious challenges. Said a pro-Bhattarai central committee member, Kumar Poudel, “If the party is to remain united, the chairman must sacrifice many things. We can not always give shoulders to him just for the sake of keeping the party united.”
At one point, Prachanda was offered a proposal to make way for Baburam Bhattarai to become the leader of the parliamentary party and pro-Kiran leader C.P. Gajurel his deputy.
The idea did not move ahead when Kiran grew suspicious of the increased frequency of Prachanda’s visits to Bhattarai’s residence.
A vertical split in the Maoist party looks inevitable. Sooner rather than later. How soon is not clear yet. Probably it will depend on how the national political drama plays out in the next two months, ahead of the expiry of the extended life of the constituent assembly.
Prachanda is closer to Bhattarai in laying priority on peace and constitution instead of going for a popular revolt that Kiran proposes. But he does not dare to challenge Kiran due to the latter’s grip in the organization and backing of a substantial number of the former combatants who are not very happy with their supreme commander, Prachanda.
He is caught in a dilemma while the other two are flexing their muscles to bring him to the size.
The stage is set for the battle royale.