Maoists seek probe into leaders’ assetsPrime Minster Dahal smug about government’s achievements, vows to continue anti-corruption drive. Leaders accused of nepotism in hiring personal secretaries.
The long-overdue central committee of the CPN (Maoist Centre) began in Kathmandu on Wednesday.
Interestingly, the party made a last-minute decision to shelve its plan to livestream the proceedings of the meeting. Last month, the Nepali Congress became the first Nepali political party to livecast its central committee meeting’s proceedings.
The Maoist meeting is expected to take various decisions related to the party’s organisation, government, and the current ruling alliance, among other issues.
While kicking off the meeting, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the party chair and prime minister, admitted that the Maoist Center does not look like a political party.
“In the past too, I had been saying that our party did not look like a political party…even though we have a large cadre base. Through this meeting, we have to build a real communist party,” said Dahal.
Dahal in his political and organisational report presented at the meeting claimed that the party had 715,000 members, but received a ‘meagre’ 1.175 million votes under the proportional representation in the elections last November. But Dahal’s report was not distributed at the meeting , according to the party leaders.
Dahal also proposed to convene the party’s policy convention by mid-November. The party plans to conduct a three-month campaign titled “party with the people” from August, according to a central committee member.
The meeting has five agenda items: presentation of political report and organisational report, policy convention, party rebuilding, and other contemporary issues. Dahal said the party should work hard to expand its membership during the three-month campaign.
But Dahal’s report is expected to be challenged by the party’s central committee member Lekhnath Neupane, who will present his dissenting views on Thursday.
Some leaders even criticised Dahal at the meeting.
“Dahal talks about transforming the party, but it should start with Chairman Dahal,” said Laxman Pant, a central committee member.
Pant raised the issue of nepotism within the party, questioning why party leaders have the tendency of appointing close relatives like daughters and nephews as their personal secretaries.
Pant specifically mentioned Ganga, the prime minister’s daughter; and Shital Kaji Shrestha, the nephew of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Narayan Kaji Shrestha, at the meeting. The two serve as personal assistants to the prime minister and deputy prime minister.
“If you are against nepotism, why don’t you appoint Maoist cadres as your assistants? There are hundreds of qualified Maoists fit for the job,” said Pant. “Baluwatar, the residence of the prime minister, has turned into a new stronghold of feudalism.”
Pant also challenged Dahal to contest the post of party chairman at the party’s upcoming general convention since Dahal has held the top post without facing an election for over three decades. “In the new context, either Dahal should dare to contest the election, or others will contest and win,” said Pant.
Most of the leaders who spoke at the meeting criticised the party’s leadership for failing to uphold the ‘ideals’ of the decade-long people’s war, establish socialism, and control corruption, among others.
Leaders also urged the party to ensure that those accused in various corruption cases and scandals are not left off the hook.
Altogether 18 central committee members spoke at the meeting on the first day. Interestingly, some of them said several Maoist leaders have become corrupt and their properties need to be investigated. Central committee member Krishna KC was among those demanding investigation into party leaders’ properties.
Similarly, leaders including Amar Tamu, Sachin Roka, and Krishna Roka defended Dahal’s political report.
Meanwhile, the meeting amended the party charter to increase the size of the party central committee to 409 members from 385. The party already has a 199-member alternative central committee. The meeting also decided to add 24 women members in the central committee in order to ensure their representation in the body to 33 percent, according to the party leaders. The amendments proposed by Dahal were unanimously approved.
Dahal called for rebuilding the party and asked the central committee members to diligently fulfil their responsibilities. “There has been a noticeable positive vibe among the public after the Maoist Center assumed government leadership, so the party building process should be intertwined with the success of the government,” said Dahal. “We are not going to compromise on good governance and corruption.”
“We are ready to quit the government, but will not abandon our commitment to fighting against corruption and promoting good governance. The government and the current alliance are doing well, but there are obstacles too. The alliance is getting stronger, but there have also been attempts to stop us,” said Dahal.
On expanding the party’s cadre base, Barsha Man Pun, the deputy general secretary, said they will visit all 6,743 wards of the country highlighting the good works of the party in combating corruption and promoting service delivery.
Dahal, the leader of the third largest party in Parliament, has been helming a coalition since last December. Since assuming power, his government has exposed the fake Bhutanese refugee scam, reopened the files on the Lalita Niwas land scam, and most recently, seized a huge amount of gold that had passed the airport customs undetected.
Leaders, speaking at the meeting, highlighted these as the government’s major achievements.
“People are hopeless. They say established political parties have failed them and no one is serious about good governance and corruption and that all parties are the same. Now we want to tell the people what we can and will do and how we will correct ourselves. The Maoist Center is going to the people to listen to their criticism and seek suggestions,” said Pun.
The leaders also claimed credit for the timely distribution of school textbooks, ensuring farmers’ access to chemical fertilisers, and bringing the law against loan-sharking.