A smug Dahal ignores party meetings, as he gloats over local poll winsInsiders say there are no plans in sight to form crucial committees, and without check-and-balance mechanisms, the chair gets free hand.
CPN (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal is clearly feeling smug. The local elections have not only given the party a new lease of life but also established it as a kingmaker as the country prepares for general elections due later this year.
An upbeat Dahal has been busy gloating over his party’s performance—and even warning that the Nepali Congress, which helped in the Maoist Centre’s wins, could be cut to size if it behaves in an arrogant manner.
If Deuba’a assertions are anything to go by, general and provincial elections are likely by the end of November. The Maoist Centre, however, has not yet made any formal assessment of its local election performance. Nor has it called any party meetings.
The party had called a virtual meeting of the Central Committee on Friday evening, which was supposed to assess the May 13 local polls, but it was called off at the last moment. No reason has been given for the cancellation.
Then Dahal called a meeting of the former Standing Committee, which existed before the party’s eighth general convention, for Saturday. The meeting, however, was held on Sunday.
But the meeting was limited to discussing the conflict in the party’s students wing whose chair and general secretary were handpicked by Dahal. The meeting ended with the decision to collect a minimum of Rs100 from all ordinary members of the party within a month for the maintenance of the physical infrastructure of the party, according to leaders.
“The inability to hold meetings regularly is a matter of serious concern for any party,” said Ganesh Sah, a former Standing Committee member. “Our party has organisational problems due to which we have not been able to assess the local poll results and the party’s future strategy.”
He said Sunday’s meeting of the party's former Standing Committee didn’t discuss the local polls.
From the eighth national convention held in December-January, Dahal was reelected—or he reelected himself, for that matter—party chair for yet another term. Dahal has been leading the party for over three decades now unopposed.
The convention, however, did not elect any office bearers, new Standing Committee or the politburo. It has been more than five months since, and Dahal is the sole leader of the party.
Most of the time, Dahal invites the former Standing Committee members for consultations. Insiders, however, say the whole purpose of holding the national convention has been defeated as the chairman still consults the former Standing Committee, which the party statute does not recognise.
Dahal has been saying that party office bearers would be elected before the upcoming elections. But not many in the party believe.
According to insiders, for Dahal, picking a new general secretary is tough and the issue is unlikely to get resolved before the polls.
“I don’t think office bearers of the party will be elected before the upcoming polls as chances of an agreement on the general secretary are slim,” said Maheshwar Dahal, a Central Committee member. “A Central Committee meeting will be held after a month, but unless there is an agreement, election to office bearers will only be held after the polls.”
Dahal’s choice for general secretary is his close ally Barsha Man Pun, while Janardan Sharma, the incumbent finance minister, also has laid claim to the post.
According to Sah, the party failed to elect office bearers for two reasons—difficulty in “managing” leaders and the leadership’s reluctance to elect them at the earliest.
The eighth national convention even failed to elect all the members for the Central Committee.
“If you ask me how many members are there in our Central Committee, I don’t know exactly how many,” said Sah, the former Standing Committee member. “If we fail to elect office bearers this time, it will mean that our party is in a big crisis.”
Party leaders said earlier they could not elect the officer bearers because of the local level polls. But it has been more than three weeks since local polls were held and there has been no discussion yet on the matter.
The party has envisioned 15 office bearers—one senior vice-chair, five vice-chairs, one general secretary, two deputy secretaries, four secretaries and a treasurer, besides the chairman.
Dahal had told party leaders that “a special convention” will be held after the local polls to elect the party’s leadership and devise the party's ideological base. But nothing has happened to that effect also, say insiders.
According to Hem Raj Bhandari, a Central Committee member, the party may not elect its office bearers and other crucial committees like the Standing Committee and politburo before the upcoming polls.
“With no committees in place to question him, the chairman can take decisions as per his wish,” said Bhandari, who believes the electoral alliance with the Congress adversely affected the party’s performance in Province 1. “It will be difficult to continue partnership with the ruling alliance in the upcoming polls.”
He said the leadership had told the party members that a special convention will be organised to finalise the party’s leadership and ideological issues after the local polls but there is no sign of holding such a convention yet.
Dahal himself had told the recently elected people’s representatives on Wednesday that the party has been reeling from an identity crisis and that people are finding it difficult to distinguish between the Maoist Centre from other parties.
“Our party has a crisis of identity. Our activities are not different from other pro-parliamentary forces, bourgeois and opportunists,” Dahal said while addressing the new local government representatives elected from his party. “The identity of our party that it works for the people has gradually been wiped out.”
The eighth national convention did nothing on the ideological front except ensuring Dahal’s total supremacy in the party.
Dahal’s document entitled ‘Nepal’s Road to Socialism in the 21st Century,’ which was presented at the convention, talks at length about various issues, including environment and climate change—but delegates had said that there was confusion as to how the party indeed wants to achieve socialism.
After a section of the party led by Narayan Kaji Shrestha vehemently opposed the US grant, the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact, the party leadership had said it would organise “a special forum” to discuss the pros and cons of the compact after June 3.
“But with the postponement of the Central Committee meeting until June 29, the forum plan has also been postponed,” Shrestha told the Post. “The party will also elect office bearers from the Central Committee meeting.”
Also, the “special convention” is nowhere in sight.
“The party’s special convention won’t happen before the upcoming polls,” Shrestha said.