Conventional wisdomAt a minimum, Dahal should declare that he will step down as the head of his party after a specific time.
Good luck solving the problems in the CPN (Maoist Centre) at its statute convention slated for Feb 13-15 in Kathmandu. The convention will apparently help resolve the party’s ideological and organisational challenges. But where do you start? The most glaring contradiction in the Maoist Centre is that an outfit whose USP was defending the rights of the marginalised communities has abandoned them. Senior party leaders who once took up guns to fight against an ‘exploitative’ state and build a more equal society have become silent supporters of crony capitalism. The party already had its hands full fighting traditional nemesis in the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML. Now, it also has to compete against vigorous new entrants like the Rastriya Swatantra Party and the Janamat Party. As of today, Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s outfit has nothing with which to entice voters. Even its name creates suspicion and cynicism. The Maoist tag was fine for a party out to overthrow a state. Nearly two decades since the guns went silent, the nomenclature has outlived its utility and is now more of a burden.
Perhaps the biggest problem is the sclerotic Maoist Centre leadership. The same person has been the party head for 35 years, and he shows no willingness to hand over command to a younger comrade. Top leaders clinging to their posts past their expiry date is a problem in all of Nepal’s major parties. But there is a vital difference in the Maoist Centre: unlike the Congress and the UML, which elect their heads from the floor of the general convention, the Maoist Centre has never elected its chairperson. Every time, Dahal pretty much picks himself the chair. These are just a few of countless anomalies afflicting the Maoist Centre. In the lead-up to the statute convention, some second-generation leaders dare murmur the need to institute a system for a more natural and periodic change of party leadership. Among the other issues being discussed is the downsizing of the mammoth party committees. For instance, the proposal is to hack down the central committee from 600-strong to 151. There is also a proposal to involve leaders and cadres in various ‘productive activities’ so that the party does not have to rely on outside donations that come with strings attached.
But these cosmetic changes will no longer suffice. If the (distant) third biggest party in the national parliament is to revive its electoral fortunes, it must completely overhaul the organisation. As the Maoist Centre is a one-man show, at a minimum, Dahal should declare that he will step down at a specified time and that in the meantime he will focus on grooming next-generation leaders. The other must-do for the Maoist Centre is to renew its commitment to taking up the issues of the marginalised communities. To start with, people from these communities should be adequately represented in the party’s important organs—above and beyond the representations of such communities in other parties. Unless Dahal is ready to make some tough calls in order to help his organisation build a solid and distinct identity, the Maoist Centre, we are afraid, is a spent force.