Ruling party leaders are enraged after provincial lawmaker with criminal past enters the partyRajib Gurung, who goes by the name of Dipak Manange, has been charged with attempted murder
When Rajib Gurung, a provincial assembly member from Gandaki, entered the Nepal Communist Party, Chief Minister Prithvi Subba Gurung tried to compare him with Chu Teh, a Chinese general and one of the pioneers of the Communist Party of China.
“Chu Teh was a warlord,” said the chief minister, who has close relations with Prime Minister and party Co-chair KP Sharma Oli. “When the communist party talked to him, he wanted to contribute to the Chinese people’s war. He said he wanted to fight for the liberation of the people. Then he became the third greatest leader of China.”
Rajib Gurung, also known as Dipak Manange, has a chequered past and criminal history, and his entry into the ruling party has not gone down well with many leaders in the Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
Asta Laxmi Shakya, in charge of the party’s Province 3 committee, said the party was now increasingly becoming a crowd of immoral people and the leadership should take the responsibility.
“The party should follow the statute’s criteria while bringing people into the party,” Shakya told the Post. “They must have some social reputation and moral standing.”
Many NCP leaders even took to social media to criticise the leadership’s decision to welcome a controversial figure to the party.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Ramdip Acharya, a central member of the communist party, wrote that after Manange, it was CK Raut’s turn to enter the ruling party. “How won’t his intellectual power and Manange’s physical power jointly bring miracle as said by [Frederick] Engels?”
Raut, who had led a “Free Madhes” campaign, renounced his “separatist movement” in March and joined mainstream politics.
Surendra Basnet, a student leader, lashed out at the party leadership for allowing someone with a criminal history to join the party.
“Prison is the right place for such criminals—not the communist party. Leaders of NCP! Remember elections will come again,” Basnet wrote on Facebook.
Manange initially wanted to fight for the provincial assembly from the then CPN-UML. But after widespread criticism because of his past, the UML refused to give him a ticket. He filed his candidacy under the independent category for the district of Manang, while the UML fielded his elder sister against him.
A standing committee member, who did not want to be named for fear of retribution, described the entire episode as an orchestrated drama. “Actually his sister was just a dummy candidate,” the ruling party member said, “and she helped Manange win the election.”
Manange was on the run after the Supreme Court in January last year upheld then Patan Appellate Court’s verdict to send him to prison for five years for an attempted murder case. In its verdict on a 13-year-old case of a gang war between Manange and his rival Milan Gurung aka Chakre, then Patan Appellate Court in 2012 had ruled the incident as an attempted murder case.
Due to the provisions in the new penal code that allow defendants deserving less than a 10-year sentence to fight their case from outside the prison, Manange, who was serving sentence on the attempt to murder charge, was released in December last year.
Around 16 months after his election as a member of the Gandaki provincial assembly, Manange had taken the oath on January 28. Gandaki Province Speaker Netra Adhikari had administered the oath of office to him in the presence of provincial ministers, provincial assembly members and journalists.
Some senior leaders in the party minced no words to censure the leadership for welcoming Manange to the party.
“Any communist party has a system in place which helps transform ideologically raw people into the ones who could shape the society,” said Ghanashyam Bhusal, a standing committee member, who is a vocal critic of the party leadership. “But when the system does not function, unwanted people make it to the party.”
The ruling party’s interim statute states that for someone to become a member of the party, one should not be serving a jail term on any criminal offence.
“The system has broken down in the party, as the chairman and provincial in-charges seem to be above the party statute,” said Bhusal.
But Gurung, the chief minister, said that Manange was far better than many of the party members who are already in the party.
“It’s hard to distinguish between good and bad people,” Gurung told the Post over the phone. “Most of the party’s long-time leaders have become brokers and are involved in commission and corruption. Manange is an elected member of the provincial assembly and the party should give him a chance to improve his behaviour.”
Multiple leaders who spoke to the Post also expressed concerns that the party’s decision to welcome a controversial figure could widen the existing rift, as Manange’s entry into the party was made possible at the behest of a certain faction.
“Leaders are taking such decisions to strengthen their factions,” said Bhusal. “There is nothing left to further damage the already wrecked party.”
But the provincial chief minister continued to defend Manange, calling his entry to the party “an important event” because it gives the party a two-thirds majority in the provincial assembly.
“It’s good that a person elected by the people entered the party,” Gurung said. “If he were a thug, people would not have elected him.”
Deepak Pariyar contributed reporting from Pokhara.