Wednesday, July 27, 2011

After they broke bread in Gongabu

KATHMANDU, July 27: Many political buffs were taken by surprise when Maoist vice-chairmen duo Mohan Baidya and Dr Baburam Bhattarai forged a tactical alliance to cut Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the all-powerful leader of the party, down to size.

It was surprising because Baidya and Bhattarai float contrasting political lines and these two ideologues underwent strained relationships through much of the party history as each tried to get his line prevailed in the party.

What prompted the vice-chairmen duo to come together this time around? And how did this happen?

Party insiders say both leaders were disillusioned with the chairman who pitted one against the other due to their opposite political stances, and remained undisputed leader for the last two decades.

“It was however after the second Gonganbu dinner that ossified the alliance between the two leaders,” says a leader close to Baidya.

The secret party held at a private house in Gongabu last June, which followed a similar dinner one year ago, was meant to bring the two leaders at one place on the organizational issue and end Dahal´s complete hold in the party.

Core leaders of both the factions including Netra Bikram Chand, Hitman Shakya from Baidya faction and Devendra Poudel and Ram Karki had taken the initiative. “During the meeting both Baidya and Bhattarai came to the conclusion that they should join hands to push for collective leadership in the party,” says a leader close to Bhattarai.

The first jumbo dinner in Gongabu, which had also seen the participation of Vice-chairman Narayankaji Shrestha and General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa, was a fiasco as the details of the talks were leaked to Dahal and then to the media.

The secret alliance between the two leaders came to the open when 156 lawmakers of the party, who were close to Baidya and Bhattarai, signed a memorandum and submitted it to Dahal demanding that he immediately implement the earlier party decision to send 33 percent women to the cabinet.

“While we were encouraged by the overwhelming support of the lawmakers, we were angry at the chairman who was reluctant to adopt proportional representation in the cabinet,” says a leader close to Bhattarai. The alliance then began exercise to get Shrestha and Thapa. Thapa immediately backed the alliance, but Shrestha was still reluctant as his supporters in the party developed cold feet.

However, the alliance had already collected the signatures of 74 CC members, which was a majority in the 147-member body. And it was the first time in the party history that Dahal was forced to share his powers with other party leaders.

The closeness between Baidya and Bhattarai dates back to the time of Kharipati National Conclave in 2008 when some of Bhattarai´s supporters including Ram Karki and Devendra Poudel voted in favor of Baidya against the Dahal-Bhattarai alliance.

“Communications between the two vice-chairmen, whose relations were sour, opened up from that time,” says a leader close to Bhattarai.

As Bhattarai´s relations with Dahal strained over the post of prime minister, Karki, Poudel, Ganga Shrestha and Khagraj Bhatta played crucial roles to bring these two leaders together.

But, will the alliance continue? Party insiders say there is at least one reason to believe so: the immediate breaking of the alliance would be detrimental to both Baidya and Bahttarai as well as Shrestha and Thapa. “We have formed the alliance with a certain purpose and we would not break it until we accomplish our mission,” says leader Netra Bikram Chand who is close to Baidya.

Published on 2011-07-27 02:30:33

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