In maintaining silence over Chand outfit’s terror, Dahal sees an opportunity to rebuild his own imageMaoist leaders, who are now part of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) after their merger last year, have yet to make any comments on last week's attacks—they look akin to what the Maoists did in the initial days of the insurgency—perpetrated by the Chand outfit.
Days after the explosion outside the Ncell headquarters in Lalitpur that killed one person, and a series of arson attacks targeting telephone towers in a dozen different districts, the needle of suspicion pointed to the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal.
Earlier this week, the Chand party owned up to the attacks and apologised for the loss of life—but it stopped short of renouncing violence, saying the attack was part of an action against the “comprador capitalists”. The same day, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa told the parliamentary State Affairs Committee that documents and other evidence obtained by the government showed that the Chand party was responsible for the attack.
However, Maoist leaders, who are now part of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) after their merger last year, have yet to make any comments on the attacks—they look akin to what the Maoists did in the initial days of the insurgency—perpetrated by the Chand outfit.
Some party insiders say the former Maoist party, led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, is not too keen on pressing for immediate stern action against the Chand outfit.
“The fact that none of the Maoist leaders has refuted the act of violence shows they still hold a soft corner for the Chand party,” a Maoist leader told the Post on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
At least two other Maoist leaders who are close to Dahal told the Post that a large section of the members of the party does hold sympathy for the Chand group, which was formed after breaking away from Dahal.
Chand first left Dahal’s Maoist party, along with Mohan Baidya and Ram Bahadur Thapa, in 2012. Chand and Baidya had accused Dahal of deviating from the Maoist ideology. Two years later, Chand left Baidya and Thapa after political differences, saying he wanted to launch a “unified people’s revolution.”
“Look at the context. This attack has come days after Dahal warned of the birth of a new Maoist party,” said the Maoist leader.
Speaking at a book launch on February 8, Dahal warned that the country could see the birth of another Maoist force if the peace process and the new constitution were treated lightly. Although he did not elaborate, Dahal called for an “honest implementation of the peace agreement.”
Despite alarm from some experts that the government’s continued undermining of the Chand party’s activities could turn into a major security threat, the KP Sharma Oli administration has taken a lackadaisical approach to deal with Chand—and Dahal and Thapa, both key leaders in the ruling party, appear to be maintaining a softer stance.
A former chief of one of the security agencies told the Post that Dahal and Thapa won't go on the offensive against Chand.
“After all, they are from the same background,” said Devi Ram Sharma, former head of the National Investigation Department. “It’s not that the government was not informed about the developments, but it underestimated [the Chand party]. There was a lapse on the part of the government.”
Last year, after Thapa took control of the Home Ministry, the government formed a panel to hold talks with disgruntled groups and armed outfits, including Chand's party.
The panel held talks with at least 22 groups and submitted its report in December, concluding that there was no conflict situation in the country.
Suresh Ale Magar, a Maoist leader and a long-time colleague of Chand, was a member of the panel. Magar, who had sided with Chand when they left Dahal in 2012 to form another party with Baidya and Thapa, said Dahal was always in favour of bringing the Chand group to talks instead of suppressing them.
“Prime Minister Oli believed, after Chand demanded formal invitation for talks, that there was no need to hold dialogue if someone does not want to participate despite an open call,” Magar told the Post. “Dahal then suggested that the government panel use an informal channel to hold a dialogue with Chand.”
The Chand outfit not only refused the calls for talks but continued to perpetrate sporadic attacks across the country. Amid this, party insiders said, he garnered sympathy from some members within Dahal’s own party who have not been enamoured with his leadership.
“Chand is now trying to draw the attention of those who are not happy with Dahal,” said the third Maoist leader, someone who is familiar with the relationship between Chand and Dahal. “They already hold sympathy for Chand because they still believe he is the only person who is taking their unfinished revolution forward.”
This—and Dahal’s unease emanating from his decreasing space in the unified Nepal Communist Party—is making the onetime powerful Maoist chairman feel trapped, said a central committee member of the ruling party, who is a former Maoist. Political analysts have long said that Dahal's decision to merge his party with Oli’s Unified Marxist Leninist communist party was part of his bid to maintain his relevance.
After Dahal decided to join mainstream politics in 2006, his party won the first Constituent Assembly elections and emerged as the single largest party. But in the second Constituent Assembly elections in 2013, the Maoists faced a drubbing and were relegated to the third position.
Fast forward six years and Dahal has been forced to play second fiddle to Oli, said the Maoist leader close to the former Maoist chairman. “At this point, the rise of Chand plays to Dahal’s benefit,” he said. “He is waiting for the right time before he launches an offensive against Chand.”
Dahal, he said, is in dire need of rebuilding his image. “The transitional justice issue is still pending and it is dogging him,” the leader said. “Once the transitional justice process is concluded, Dahal will appear firm against the Chand outfit—to seize an opportunity to project himself as a pro-peace leader.”
Anil Giri contributed reporting to this article.