Maoist Centre’s plan to select office bearers set to be delayedCovid-19 forces Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to postpone Tuesday’s meeting, just as his key aide Barsha Man Pun’s arrival from China is uncertain.
After three members of the party’s central secretariat in Peris Danda tested positive for Covid on Thursday along with two persons working at its canteen, newly elected chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) Pushpa Kamal Dahal has suspended all meetings until further notice.
With this decision, the Central Committee meeting of the Maoist Centre, scheduled for January 9 to pick office bearers, is expected to be delayed.
Dahal was unanimously elected by the Central Committee meeting held on January 3 as proposed by Narayan Kaji Shrestha and seconded by Krishna Bahadur Mahara.
However, the party has yet to elect 14 of its 15 office bearers. According to leaders, Dahal told the meeting that leader Barshaman Pun, who is in China for medical treatment, has wished to contest the office bearers’ election as he is also a contender for general secretary.
According to Santosh Pun, Barshaman’s personal secretary, the former finance minister was discharged from hospital last Tuesday and is planning to return to Nepal next Sunday or Monday as regular flights to and from remain suspended.
Among the 14 office bearer positions, general secretary is the second most powerful—after the party chair. Pun and Janardan Sharma, both former deputy commanders of the party’s erstwhile People’s Liberation Army, have been eying the post.
Everyone inside and outside the party is eagerly watching who will land the coveted position.
As per the party’s statute, there will be 15 office bearers including the chair, a senior vice-chair, six vice-chairs, one general secretary, two deputy general secretaries, three secretaries and one treasurer. But the party’s Central Committee can change the number if needed.
Besides Pun and Sharma, the party’s seniormost woman leader Pampha Bhusal and several others including Haribol Gajurel, Shakti Basnet, Girirajmani Pokhrel and Chakrapani Khanal are also eying the position.
“Pokhrel is a natural contender for general secretary as he was party secretary seven years ago and has already served as chief whip,” said Jivan Gautam, a Central Committee member close to Pokhrel. “We don’t stake claim to the post but the leadership will have to elect someone as general secretary on the basis of their contribution to the party and performance.”
For the only post of senior vice-chair, Narayan Kaji Shrestha was the sole candidate and many leaders were saying the position was created just for him. But lately Krishna Bahadur Mahara has also shown interest in the post.
A contender for vice-chair, Matrika Yadav, however, has said he would contest for senior vice-chair if the party holds elections for office bearers positions.
However, party insiders said Mahara wants to secure the seniormost vice-chair position for himself.
From the Biratnagar Conference held a year after the seventh convention of the party in Hetauda, Mahara was elected general secretary and Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, Girirajmani Pokhrel and Barshaman Pun as three secretaries.
Since Pun and Sharma are in no mood for a compromise and if they continue to stick to their respective stances, then the Central Committee will have to hold an election for the post.
“Sharma has said he will contest election if the party fails to ensure a consensus candidate for general secretary,” said a Central Committee member asking not to be named. “If the party decides to hold an election then the contest will be between Pun and Sharma, but the leaders could even pick a general secretary from among senior leaders like Dev Gurung or Pampha Bhusal without holding an election.”
Yubaraj Chaulagain, a youth leader of the party echoes the Central Committee member.
“If the party chair decided to fill the post without election then he could pick either Dev Gurung or Pampha Bhusal,” Chaulagain said.
Though Pun seems stronger in the provincial committees, according to insiders, Sharma managed to nominate many of his supporters in the party’s new Central Committee in Pun’s absence.
“I think the meeting of the party’s Central Committee scheduled for Sunday could also be postponed because five persons at Paris Danda have contracted coronavirus,” said Shriram Dhakal, chief secretary of the party’s secretariat. “The meeting could be delayed also because leader Barshaman Pun has yet to return from China.”
After he was elected party chair, Dahal had told the Central Committee held on Monday that Pun has been discharged and is arriving soon along with another leader Onsari Gharti, his spouse, and therefore the election of office bearers will be held on January 9.
Once the general secretary is finalised, appointees for other positions like vice-chair, deputy general secretaries and secretaries will become clear.
For the six vice-chairs Matrika Yadav, Girirajmani Pokhrel, Dev Gurung, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Haribol Gajurel, Pampha Bhusal are in the fray. Those who won’t be able to get the general secretary position could be appointed either vice-chair or deputy general secretaries or secretaries. Among the aspirants for general secretary Shakti Basnet, Chakrapani Khanal and Leelamani Pokhrel could be elected deputy general secretaries.
For the three secretary positions and one post of treasurer, leaders including Devendra Poudel, Hitman Shakya, Hitraj Pande, Rekha Sharma, Shashi Shrestha, Onsari Gharti and Amrita Thapa, are some of the contenders.
Party’s two powerful sister wings– All Nepal National Independent Students Union-Revolutionary and Press Centre Nepal have also failed to elect office bearers. The national conference of the student’s union held on October 3 last year elected Pancha Singh as its chairperson but could not even elect the central committee.
Also the Press Centre Nepal, journalists wing of the party, organised its fourth national convention in Chitwan on December 5 last year and elected Bishnu Sapkota, former press advisor to Chairman Dahal, as its chair and a 199-strong Central Committee.
Just like the party, the Press Centre has failed to elect office bearers.
“I think there will be an election of office bearers of the Press Centre but not in the party,” said Kamal Giri, a vice-chair aspirant at the Press Centre Nepal. “But the Party will elect its office bearers through consensus but the selection will be delayed until leaders come to a conclusion on general secretary.”