Ruling party’s latest headache: a kerfuffle over who should lead the school departmentThe department, considered important in conducting ideological training of its members, has divided the communist party.
Leaders in the ruling Nepal Communist Party, which was born out of the merger between the two communist forces that followed two different schools of thought, are currently squabbling over who should lead the party’s “school department”.
The school department, which is responsible for imparting training to the rank and file on the party’s political line, is considered a venerable unit in a communist party.
Even though the ruling party on Sunday, 15 months after the unification, finalised the in-charges and joint in-charges of all the districts and metropolitan cities, leaders could not reach a consensus on who should head the department after Ishwar Pokhrel and Narayan Kaji Shrestha both laid claim to the position.
Pokhrel represents the former CPN-UML and Shrestha is from the former Maoist Centre.
Former Maoists are concerned over letting Pokhrel head the unit, fearing that he could impose the “people’s multiparty democracy” as the party’s ideology. Before the merger, the UML’s party line was “people’s multiparty democracy” and the Maoists followed “21st-century people’s democracy”.
The party, which currently does not have a definitive guiding principle, is likely to face more struggle when it comes to completing the unification process if it fails to strike a balance between leaders of the former UML and the former Maoist party.
Political analysts say the school department is quite significant because it conducts discourse over ideological issues.
“If utilised properly, the school department is one of the most important departments of any political party,” said Hari Roka, a former Constituent Assembly member appointed by the Maoists.
But in the ruling NCP, the fight to lead the department is not because of the significance it holds, some traditional communist leaders say.
Mohan Bikram Singh, general secretary of the CPN Masal and one of the pioneer communist leaders, said the school department plays a vital role in any communist party to shape the opinions of its cadres through Marxist and Leninist perspectives.
“But I don’t think the school department of the ruling NCP will have any significance because the party has already distanced itself from Marxism,” he said.
Singh’s statement goes in conformity with some of the current leaders of the ruling party who say the NCP leadership barely cares about what ideology it should adopt.
Leaders like Ghanshyam Bhusal, who is considered an ideologue and a critic of his own leadership, have on multiple occasions said that the unification of the two communist forces led by KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal was guided not by the ideology but by their personal interest to be in power.
This, some party members say, has raised questions about whether Pokhrel and Shrestha’s claim to the post emanates from a personality clash.
Mani Thapa, a standing committee member, said the row over who should lead the school department is nothing but an outcome of the clash between the two communist forces.
“To narrow it down, we can say it’s a personality clash and such clashes thrive in a party which does not have any clear ideological ground,” Thapa told the Post.
Even though the unified NCP had agreed to finalise its political line through its general convention, Pokhrel was the one who first stoked the debate over the party ideology, causing discomfort among the Maoist members who were already feeling neglected.
And, Thapa said, there are some personal insecurities among a few leaders.
Pokhrel finds himself to have been relegated in the party because a junior leader was elevated to the post of general secretary. On the other hand, Shrestha, who lost the election, is in search of an influential position within the party.
“A leader who leads the school department enjoys more say at the lower level of the party,” said Thapa. “So leaders have made this about a matter of prestige.”
While championing Shrestha, also the party spokesperson, for the post, former Maoists argue that Pokhrel would not be able to give enough time because of his role in the government as defence minister.
Some leaders in the NCP, however, said they were concerned over the ongoing fight over leading party departments, including the school department, as it could thwart the renewed efforts to complete the unification at the earliest.
“The issue has been blown out of proportion,” said Surendra Pandey, a standing committee member. “This [school] department cannot take all the responsibility to teach political theories to the party cadres.”
Pandey said the party’s ideological line will be defined not by a single individual who leads the school department. “We all know what the previous department heads did,” he said. “If the debate over leadership of a department doesn’t settle, the two co-chairmen should take responsibility.”
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