Thursday, January 5, 2012

Will Maoist factionalism impact peace?

KATHMANDU, Jan 5: For nearly two weeks now, the Maoist rival factions have been fiercely condemning each other at the ongoing Central Committee meeting for straying from the “correct revolutionary track” and violating the communist organizational principle of “democratic centralism”, but the tough questions await answers.

First, how will the party conclude the ongoing meeting amidst the seemingly unbridgeable ideological chasm and what will be the fate of party unity? And second -- perhaps even more importantly -- what will be the repercussions of the factionalism in the largest party on the larger political scene?

Sources say party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has already appealed to the party radical faction to agree on common immediate programs and conduct “forums” for ideological dissent until a general convention is held.

“After all, they [hardliners] are also not opposed to the idea of peace and constitution; there is space for reconciliation and we are seriously making attempts for that,” says Maoist leader Agni Sapkota, who is close to Dahal.

But Dahal’s call has only angered the hardliners led by Senior Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya. They construe the proposal merely as a ploy to drag the party into parliamentary politics, and have put forward mainly two conditions for reconciliation.

First, the chairman should bat for a “People’s Constitution”, replacing the incumbent prime minister, Baburam Bhattarai, with some other party leader; and secondly, settle the other organizational issues including party finances and internal power sharing.

Both options are equally unacceptable for Chairman Dahal. “Completion of the peace and constitution, which is also the official party line, is the need of the hour and there can be no turning back. Nor will the prime minister resign,” says party leader Shakti Basnet, who is also close to Dahal.

Constrained by the looming CA deadline, Chairman Dahal, party leaders say, is not in a position to remain undecided over the two different political documents presented by himself and Baidya at the current meeting. This will obviously lead to the second option for Dahal: endorse his document through a majority vote, as suggested by his clique.

“They can either reconcile, or register their dissent and even take the ideological disputes among the masses as per party discipline. The party cannot move ahead with two political lines,” says Basnet.

But will the hardliners just register their dissent and obey the party line of the majority as per the “Leninist principle”?
“No way,” says party leader Khadga Bahadur Bishwakarma, who is close to Baidya.

According to him, the party stands at a “specific historical phase” where it has two clear lines -- revisionist and revolutionary. “We cannot accept any victory of the revisionist line through a sham majority vote,” adds Bishwakarma.

What then will the hardliners do if Dahal forces his way through the Central Committee by endorsing his document by majority vote?
“We won’t obey such a decision. We will formulate our own political programs and reach out to the people.

They want us to either kneel down before the party establishment or split the party. But we are against both,” says Kul Prasad KC, another leader close to Baidya.

But Dahal is not in a mood to take any disciplinary action against the hardliners even if they go their own way, violating party discipline.
‘One thing is for sure. The chairman will not take any action against them as that will only trigger an immediate split. Who wants to take on the stigma of having split the party?” says Haribol Gajurel who is close to Dahal.

If that is so, the party will neither split nor remain united in the immediate future, but run into more serious confrontations, with the Baidya faction running their own party within the party.

Finally, what will be the repercussions on the overall peace process? Leaders are not sure, but fear that disobedience of party decisions by the hardliners may create a new political configuration, making the constitution drafting process more difficult.

Last month, around 90 CA members close to Baidya foiled an all-party agreement to form a panel for state restructuring by aligning themselves with the Janajati caucus, and they may well create new power equations by siding with different interests of the faction-ridden political parties in the CA.

The Baidya faction believes that the way the peace process is moving ahead is sure to turn their party into “another CPN-UML” and is bent on disrupting that process.

“Then they should take the responsibility for the ensuing chaos in the country,” argues Maoist leader Kumar Paudel from the party establishment. But that’s what just the hardliners want in order to foment an urban insurrection for state capture.
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