Election in Maoist Centre is foisting leaders on committeesThe party is set to form a new Central Committee but many say competition is unlikely amid efforts to select members through consensus.
Leadership was not an issue when the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) was heading for its “national conference” scheduled for December 26, said the leaders. Less than 24 hours before the event, the party decided to change the “conference” into a “national convention,” which would be the eighth iteration.
Leaders said the party would focus on ideological issues—political documents, counter-documents, debates and discussions—so as to find a guiding principle for the party.
After days of rhetoric, the Maoist Centre on Friday endorsed chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s document despite delegates questioning its vagueness and doubting its implementation.
Insiders say regardless of how much leaders harped on ideology and principles, the entire interest was on leadership selection.
The party on Saturday endorsed a proposal to have 15 office bearers, including chair, and a 299-member Central Committee. Dahal has already proclaimed himself as the party chair for the next five years.
The Central Committee will then elect 14 office bearers. The process to elect Central Committee members is set to start from Sunday.
But many say an election is unlikely, as efforts are on to choose Central Committee members on the basis of consensus—which squarely means “at the behest of the party chair”.
“We are likely to go the CPN-UML way when it comes to electing the new Central Committee,” said Dipak Devkota, one of the delegates participating in the party’s convention. “This is sad that many of our leaders criticised the UML style of choosing leadership, and now we are set to follow them.”
During the 10th national congress of the UML held in Chitwan from November 26 to 30, party chair KP Sharma Oli tried his best to elect the new Central Committee through consensus. Since there were many aspirants, an election did take place. But with the names of a set of leaders fished out from Oli’s pocket, those in their bid to challenge failed to make it to the Central Committee.
“Something similar is going to happen in our party,” said Devkota.
In the Maoist party, which Dahal has been leading for over three decades, there has never been any room for election and competition. Those who tried to challenge Dahal have either left the party or remained under Dahal—quiet and subdued.
The way Dahal’s document, despite many criticising it for lacking the flavour of the Maoist party of the revolution days, was endorsed on Friday is also an indication that the party chair continues to rule the organisation with an iron fist.
Insiders say it was in the interest of Dahal to increase the number of office bearers as he wanted to “manage” all the aspirants so that no one could make any attempt to challenge him.
As per the amended party statute, there will be one senior vice-chair, six vice-chairs, one general secretary, two deputy general secretaries, three secretaries and a treasurer.
They are to be elected by a Central Committee, where Dahal is likely to have leaders from his pocket, according to insiders.
The Maoist Centre leadership has asked eight provincial committees—seven geographical and one non-geographical—to select a certain number of Central Committee members. Once they provide the lists, the leadership will announce the names and elections will be held if there are more aspirants than the posts.
According to Dev Prasad Gurung, a Standing Committee member who presented the statute amendment proposal, the party will elect 50 percent of the Central Committee members from the open category and the rest under the proportional representation system from different clusters—Dalit, Muslim, Tharu, Madhesi, indigenous nationalities, Khas Arya, differently-abled, backward region and youth.
The provincial committees will present the list of 50 percent of the central members from various clusters.
The party has already decided to elect 35 percent women, 15 percent Dalit, five percent Muslim and 20 percent youths below 40 years of age, in the Central Committee.
The delegates have also endorsed the proposal to allow the Central Committee to nominate 15 percent additional members (45), so as to make it 344-strong, as opposed to the previous provision of 10 percent.
Though the party earlier said there were 1,631 delegates, the Central Election Commission has published a list of 1,742 voters.
According to party insiders, the top leadership devised the criteria of 50 percent leaders elected from the open category so as to retain the existing Central Committee members.
The Maoist Centre had a 200-member Central Committee before its merger with the UML in May 2018 to form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). After the Supreme Court invalidated the NCP on March 7 last year, the Maoist Centre retained the same 200 leaders as central members. But the party was left with only 176 central members, as others decided to remain in the UML.
While addressing the closed session on Saturday, party chair Dahal said he won’t obstruct any democratic process to elect the Central Committee if consensus was not possible.
“Initially, everyone attempts to forge consensus first. But we are not going to make any move that stifles the democratic process,” a delegate quoted Dahal as saying. “We are always for democratic practices.”
But the delegates were for going to elections without the leadership proposing the list of candidates.
“Panel list will be read out at the closed session and if everyone accepts it, that will be final but if some oppose the selections, an election will take place,” said Atendra Kesari Neupane, a delegate from Tanahun. “But I don’t think an election will take place as there won’t be delegates confronting the leadership.”
The party’s election commission led by Bishnu Pukar Shrestha earlier on Saturday published an election schedule, allotting the candidacy filing time from 8pm to 10:30pm on Saturday itself. The deadline, however, was postponed until 2pm Sunday at the leadership’s request.
Voting would take place from 6:25pm till 10:25pm on Sunday.
“We have almost completed the list of 50 percent members to be selected with proportional representation. Now I think the election will be held only for 145 members under the open category,” Gurung told the Post. “Even if the leaders manage to forge consensus, the election commission will follow the due process of election.”
The party has scheduled the closed session from 1pm Sunday in which the name list of 145 Central Committee members would be read out. If the list gets endorsed without any objection, the said names will make it to the Central Committee. Or else, an election will take place.
“Leaders are working hard to ensure that the previous central members do not lose their positions,” said Devendra Parajuli, one of the delegates. “Maximum effort will be made for consensus.”