CPN-UML debates on documents with participants subdued in their criticismRepresentatives say discussions at the statute congress also revolved around deification of a leader and party’s failure to introspect and make an honest assessment.
The CPN-UML had long been known as a party that functioned like a well-oiled machine. The leadership, however, in recent years appears to have failed to prevent corrosion.
On the second day of the party’s statute congress, the first ever, the leadership received brickbats from some representatives, as the discipline commission pointed at growing arbitrariness among the leadership.
Commission chair Amrit Bohora, a standing committee member, presented his report on Saturday, saying that growing arbitrariness among the leadership has become the bane of the party.
“Internal disputes are a common phenomenon in any dynamic party but the party leadership did not attempt to resolve them,” a representative quoted Bohora as saying, while presenting his report at the statute congress. “A tendency to discourage criticism has grown, which is not good.”
Bohora told the Post that he has raised several issues, including lavish lifestyles and extravagance of party leaders and cadres. “A communist party should be championing the cause of the oppressed and the proletariat. But looking at our leaders’ living standards, it does not look like they lead a communist party.”
In his report, he also criticised the lavish style of organising the party’s functions and suggested that such a trend must change. He was also pointing out to the boastful organisation of the three-day long statute congress held for the first time.
“Most of the participants endorsed my report with applause after I presented it,” said Bohora. However, the report was not distributed to the participants.
In the report, Bohora has also pointed out that none of the three budgets of the party’s government in the federal and those at the provinces and local levels incorporated the programmes as per the slogan ‘Happy Nepali Prosperous Nepal’ developed by the party.
Saturday was set aside for discussions on the three proposals that were presented on Friday.
Party chair KP Sharma Oli presented his political document while General Secretary Ishwar Pokhrel presented a document on the party’s organisational structure. Deputy General Secretary Secretary Bishnu Poudel presented a statute amendment proposal.
There was also criticism on Saturday for the leadership trying to put Oli above the institution, an attempt to build a personality cult around him.
With regards to the party’s organisational structure, representatives are debating whether there should be a 70-year age bar for executive positions in the party.
Oli, 69, appears set to be installed as party chair uncontested from the 10th general convention scheduled for November 18-22. If the 70-year age bar is applied, around a dozen leaders including Subas Nembang (69), Ishwar Pokhrel (68), Yubaraj Gyawali (68), Asta Laxmi Shakya (67), Ram Bahadur Thapa (66) and Bhim Rawal (66), among others, may not get a chance to lead the party from the 11th convention, which would be held four years later. Some have floated proposals if the party could adopt a 70-year age bar or two terms. Some have also proposed increasing the age bar.
Representatives are also discussing whether scrapping the post of deputy general secretary is right and whether the number of vice-chairs should be increased. In the current structure, the party has five vice-chairs.
The statute amendment proposal has suggested three vice-chairs and five secretaries and no deputy general secretaries. Besides Poudel, who presented the document, Ghanashyam Bhusal is another deputy general secretary in the party. Bhusal, however, is one of the dissident leaders who were earlier with the Madhav Nepal group but decided to remain in the UML after Nepal decided to split and form the CPN (Unified Socialist).
Most of the representatives debating in groups suggested that the party have seven vice-chairs including a senior vice-chairperson and seven secretaries so as to lead provincial committees more effectively. They have also called for retaining the post of deputy general secretary and increasing their number to three.
“Actually we need to manage a huge organisation and members from different parties, including the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), are likely to join us soon. Therefore, the participants have suggested increasing the numbers of office bearers,” said Bhanubhakta Dhakal, a Central Committee member. “Also, we have to manage leaders who chose not to join those who split the party and formed their own.”
Some participants also criticised the leadership for failing to make the statute congress a platform for holding wider debates on ideological issues and party’s values. According to them, the statute congress appears to have become a stage to eulogise Oli. They have also expressed their reservations about the leadership’s attempt to keep critical voices at bay.
A participant said the leadership has failed to make an honest assessment of the party’s three years in power and its merger with the Maoist Centre, and the recent split. The UML and the Maoist Centre had merged in May 2018 to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). But the party was invalidated by the Supreme Court in March this year. The UML and the Maoist Centre were revived to their pre-May 2018 stages.
Madhav Nepal formed his own party, CPN (Unified Socialist) on August 26.
Participants said questions were raised whether the leadership needed to introspect instead of just blaming Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the Maoist Centre chair, and Madhav Nepal.
“The political document does not speak about the weaknesses of our leadership with regards to the party split,” said a representative who did not wish to be named. “Some participants said that the leadership must admit the decisions to dissolve the House of Representatives as a mistake and make a fair assessment if those moves affected the party.”
According to him, it’s up to the party to decide where and how the assessment should be made, but an introspection is a must and it should have been better had it been done at the ongoing statute convention.
Oli had dissolved the House first on December 20 last year when internal struggle between him and the Dahal-Nepal group was at its peak. Then again on May 21, Oli dissolved the House, which was restored by the Supreme Court on February 23. While restoring the House for a second time, the Supreme Court even ousted Oli from office.
Rachana Khadka, finance minister in the Bagmati provincial government, however, said there was a fair share of criticism, unlike she was expecting.
According to her, participants mostly talked about attempts to deify leadership and the party becoming individual-centric.
“There were also concerns about the party leadership failing to do an introspection, especially on House dissolutions and failure to prevent the party from splits,” she said.
Around 6,000 representatives are participating in the three-day statute congress, which will conclude on Sunday after the leadership responds to the concerns raised by the participants. The representatives have been divided into 10 groups. The statute congress will finalise the UML’s policies for the next four years.
Those who have closely followed the evolution of the UML over the years and are keeping a close eye on the party’s ongoing statute convention say the communist party appears to be regressing instead of moving forward.
Narayan Dhakal, a writer who once was a dedicated member of the UML, said the party now has come to a stage where the leadership has been centralised around Oli.
“The ongoing statute congress is debating less on ideologies, principles and party’s core values and beliefs,” said Dhakal. “Rather it seems it is intended at showing its strength, targeting the upcoming elections which the party believes will be won under Oli. The party has hugely deviated from democratic and constitutional values.”