KATHMANDU, Dec 8: The long overdue general convention of the ruling UCPN (Maoist) has been rescheduled for coming February 2, in Hetauda.
Earlier, the meeting was scheduled for January 27 in Kathmandu. It will be for five days and can be extended two more days if needed.
The party has not held a general convention for the last 20 years. It had also failed to hold the general convention announced two years ago.
A joint meeting of party office-bearers and state committee coordinators held at the prime minister´s residence at Baluwatar on Friday took the decision to reschedule the general convention.
Party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has remained at the helm continuously for the past two decades. The general convention held in Chitwan in 1992 had elected him party chief.
As per the meeting decision on Friday, all representatives for the general convention will have to contact the party by Feb 1. Likewise, the meeting has decided to conclude the party´s district conventions by January 23.
"Suspicion is natural that the general convention will be held at all, but it is not true that because of postponements time and again it will never be held. If we connot hold it this time, our cadres and the people will not believe us again," Bishwa Bhakta Dulal, Tamsaling State Committee Coordinator, told Republica.
"We have no option but to hold the general convention if we are to run the party and give life to the party organization." According to him, the general convention is necessary to face fresh elections or to go for street protests.
"We must hold the general convention to save our ideology and also the life of the organization," added Dulal.
The breakaway CPN-Maoist has already announced its own general convention for Jan 9-13, in Kathmandu. At Friday´s meeting, party Chairman Dahal proposed 12 various committees for holding the general convention.
According to Maoist leaders, Dahal proposed a monitoring committee to be headed by himself, a disciplinary committee to be headed by Vice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha, an international guests committee to be headed by Vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai, a publicity committee headed by Agni Prasad Sapkota, a children and disabled committee headed by Amik Sherchan and a youth and volunteers committee under Barsha Man Pun.
Interestingly, both the UCPN (Maoist) and CPN-Maoist have announced general conventions only after their split.
Golden chance for Dahal
Why is the UCPN (Maoist) going for a general convention after 20 years? How did Dahal become ready to hold a general convention?
People who know the Maoists have doubts they will hold a general convention this time either. Why have the Maoists announced the date and venue this time? Is it just for public consumption or is it for real?
There are reasons why Dahal should want to really hold the general convention this time.
First, the breakaway CPN-Maoist is going to hold its general convention. After that general convention it will threaten the legitimacy of the UCPN(Maoist), which has been run by ad-hoc committees for two decades. The party must hold its general convention to safeguard the leadership´s legitimacy.
Secondly, Dahal is hobbled by the party´s inner struggles and has problem exercising power in the party and taking decisions. He has trouble working with the ad-hoc committees.
Thirdly, Dahal must regain strength in the party to exercise strong leadership. He has to cultivate Dr Baburam Bhattarai and Narayan Kaji Shrestha while their sway is still limited to the central committee level and does not extend further down. After the general convention, he will be able to take any decision and implement them. The Bhattarai and Shrestha faction will get just a few seats and Dahal can then operate more smoothly.
"Dahal is now compelled to keep Bhattarai and Shresth happy. But after the general convention, he will be able to act more freely," said Mani Thapa, a former Maoist leader. According to Thapa, Dahal will be able to choose his own cadres alone if fresh elections are held. Under the existing situation, he would have to share this privilege with Bhattarai and Shrestha.
Fourth, the Bhattarai faction had earlier been portraying Bhattarai as the leader who should be given the chance to exercise leadership in accordance with his ideological stature. But, after becoming prime minister Bhattarai has lost his moral high ground and there are few left to counter Dahal. Before the split the Baidya faction used to challenge Dahal, and after the general convention Bhattarai and Shresth will not be strong like now.
Fifth, Dahal has never had a chance to gain an absolute majority in the party. His chance is now.
Sixth, with Bhattarai busy with the government he has not much strength left to pose a threat to Dahal. Bhattarai´s priority would be government and he would not try to weigh in over party matters.
Seventh, Dahal is not the priority for foreign forces, mainly India. So, he should try to strengthen his power in the party instead.
Eighth, this is the best option for showing national and international forces that the UCPN (Maoist) is also a party like the Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) which have internal democracy.
"It is a compulsion for Dahal to impress the international community, which supports liberal democracy," said Muma Ram Khanal, a leftist analyst.
"This is a golden chance for Dahal as he faces no risk."
According to Khanal, there is no rift in party ideology. And there is no way Bhattarai can counter him in the party committees.
He said another reason is that Dahal is facing problems because a general convention has not been held for 20 long years.
"Dahal will hold the general convention but it will be nothing more than a shraddha, a Nepali annual ritual for remembering one´s deceased kin," said Khanal.
The convention is also the only option for Dahal to shrug off the tag that he is power-hunger. It is his only one chance to down-size party committees so that they can function. Some party state committees have around 450 members and are facing problems just holding their meetings.