Inclusivity just a refrain in Maoist party, as it fails to practise what it preachesParty picks 21 office bearers with just one woman, two Madheshis, four Janajatis—none from Dalit, Muslim communities.
Tika R Pradhan
Nepal’s Maoist party, which claims to have championed the inclusivity cause, announced 21 office bearers, eight months after its general convention, on Saturday with just one woman, two Madheshis, four Janajatis and no representation from the Dalit and Muslim communities.
Even though Janardan Sharma and Barshaman Pun were said to be in the race, CPN (Maoist Centre) chair chose Dev Gurung for the general secretary post.
“Today’s Standing Committee meeting finalised 21 office bearers after the party chairman proposed the list,” said Khagaraj Bhatta, a Standing Committee member. “Now, our party will focus on the upcoming polls for which a manifesto drafting committee has also been formed.”
Though the party had decided to have 15 office bearers including the chairman, in a bid to manage the leaders, Dahal extended the number to 21.
Pampha Bhusal, the only woman, is among the seven deputy general secretaries alongside Barshaman Pun, Janardan Sharma, Girirajmani Pokhrel, Haribol Gajurel, Shakti Basnet and Matrika Yadav.
Dahal had already announced Narayan Kaji Shrestha as senior vice chair and Krishna Bahadur Mahara as vice chair.
The nine secretaries of the party are Lilamani Pokhrel, Dinanath Sharma, Chakrapani Khanal, Ram Karki, Ganesh Shah, Devendra Poudel, Dilaram Acharya, Hitman Shakya and Hitraj Pande.
Office Secretary Shreeram Dhakal has been appointed the party’s treasurer.
“We were well aware of the fact that inclusivity was not possible in the top leadership of the party,” said Bhatta. “At least we could manage a Janajati leader for the second most powerful position in the party after chairman.”
Gurung’s selection, however, is guided by Dahal’s personal interest, according to insiders, as the chairman wanted to have a “yes man” as the general secretary rather than someone who could challenge him.
Gurung is considered a hardliner in the party who doesn’t harbour much ambitions but is just trying to find some space after returning to the mother party in 2016. A longtime Maoist leader, Gurung had deserted Dahal in 2012, six years after the end of the “people’s war”, to join a more radical Maoist party led by Mohan Baidya. Those parting ways with Dahal had accused him of deviating from the ideology and leaving the “people’s war” halfway.
Insiders say Gurung is a natural choice for Dahal as he is unlikely to challenge the leadership nor make any move that could disturb the status quo.
Dahal, who controls the party with an iron fist, feared that any imbalance in the internal dynamics would cost him politically after his party managed to get a new lease of life from the May local elections.
Party leaders told the Post on Friday that the chairman would pick office bearers in such a way that he could “manage” leaders and take decisions as per his wish.
“Dahal wants to run the party the way he wants and does not want anyone to object to his decisions, and Gurung is the best candidate for him,” said a politburo member asking not to be named fearing retribution. “The chair wanted a leader as the general secretary who could just be a rubber stamp.”
Some party leaders said Saturday’s decision is a temporary arrangement and that the party will hold a special convention after the November 20 polls.
The Maoist party’s convention, however, has always been a formality with Dahal asserting his role and imposing the decisions. Instead of electing members in the party committees, Dahal fishes out a list of his favourites from his pocket and announces the names, which are endorsed by leaders.
“The date for the special convention has not been set. Discussions are going on with Madhav Nepal’s party at this time and we have to see the poll results also,” said Girirajmani Pokhrel, one of the newly elected deputy general secretaries.
The Maoist Centre is currently in dialogue with the Madhav Nepal-led CPN (Unified Socialist) for a possible unification.
Leaders say the temporary arrangement is also aimed at giving the party chair a free hand until the polls.
On the party’s failure to ensure inclusivity, Pokhrel admitted to it but also defended it, saying “it is just a temporary arrangement”.
Some leaders including Chakrapani Khanal and Janardan Sharma had expressed their dissatisfaction over Dahal’s selection of office bearers at Friday and Saturday meetings, respectively.
“Actually they had their reservations about giving opportunities to those who had once betrayed the party,” said a Standing Committee member asking not to be named. “We accepted the chairman’s proposal just because we are heading for the polls and it is just an interim arrangement.”
Along with Gurung, Pampha Bhusal, the only female office bearer, had also returned to the fold in 2016. Bhusal is currently the energy minister in the Sher Bahadur Deuba government.
Other leaders who returned to the mother party were Ram Bahadur Thapa, Lekhnath Neupane, Surya Subedi and Maheshwor Dahal. Jayapuri Gharti, Mani Thapa and Matrika Yadav, who were in different outfits, had also rejoined Dahal’s Maoist party in 2016.
Yadav has been selected as a deputy general secretary.
Mani Thapa and Ram Bahadur Thapa are not with the Maoist party as they decided to remain in the CPN-UML following the Supreme Court’s invalidation of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) in March last year.
The Standing Committee meeting on Saturday also formed a manifesto drafting committee led by senior vice-chair Shrestha.
General secretary Gurung, Girirajmani Pokhrel, Barshaman Pun, Janardan Sharma, Shakti Basnet, Lilamani Pokhrel, Ganesh Shah, Amrita Thapa, Parsuram Tamang, Parshuram Ramtel, Hari Roka, Jakir Hussain, Min Bahadur Shrestha, Krishna Chaudhari, Bhima Dhungana and Jagat Simkhada are the members.
“I was not interested in the positions distributed today. Nor did I aspire to hold any of the posts,” said one of the office bearers selected on Saturday. “The process neither respects the spirit of inclusivity nor meets our expectations. But we didn’t oppose it just because it was delayed for around nine months, and the chairman has said it is just an interim arrangement.”