KATHMANDU, May 24: The recent defection of CPN-UML politburo members to the UCPN (Maoist) has not only sounded alarm bells for the UML but is equally likely to create deeper rifts within the existing factions of the UCPN (Maoist).
With UML politburo members Ram Chandra Jha and Urmila Aryal joining the UCPN (Maoist), some of the Maoist leaders fear that the entry of UML leaders may have long-term implications for the party itself.
As it appears, the Baburam Bhattarai-led faction within the UCPN (Maoist) will be the hardest hit. While Prabhu Sah from the Bhattarai faction holds a strong sway in the Tarai districts, Bhattarai´s wife Hisila Yami is the most prominent woman leader in the party after Pampha Bhusal joined Mohan Baidya´s CPN-Maoist.
Maoist leaders said Bhattarai´s trusted lieutenant will be the one to lose the most in Tarai with the entry of Jha while Aryal is likely to overshadow Yami.
The entry of Jha and Aryal into the party hence will further deepen the factional rifts between the groups led by party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Baburam Bhattarai and Narayankaji Shrestha. Their entry has especially alarmed the Bhattarai and Shrestha panels as Dahal plans to piggyback them to the top leadership level.
Dahal now wants to promote Jha as a key Madhes leader and Aryal as a top woman leader in the party.
Dahal´s move has made his rival factions jittery because it was him who had planned the merger with the Shrestha-led CPN (Unity Center-Masal) in a bid to sideline the influential Mohan Baidya-led faction. Their fears came true as Dahal garnered majority in the party with support from Shrestha and Bhattarai-led factions.
“The latest move appears to have been taken with the plan to sideline Bhattarai and Shrestha with support from newcomers - a plan Dahal had failed to execute during the Hetauda general convention last January,” said a Maoist leader. However, unlike the past the latest move will only shift the power balance in Dahal´s favor as he has already accepted Bhattarai´s political line.
“Dahal welcomed Jha in the party only as an alternative to Prabhu Sah who is close to Bhattarai, and Aryal as alternative to Hisila Yami,” said a Maoist leader. Dahal is relieved now that he would have Jha and Aryal as his trusted lieutenants.
What troubles Bhattarai faction?
After the defection of Matrika Yadav the party lost the only leader, who was accepted by all within the party. Krishna Singh Dev Danuwar and Mahendra Paswan represented Madhes within the party after Yadav left but they have joined the Baidya led CPN-Maoist.
Dahal then tried to groom then party politburo member Bishwanath Sah as a leader of Madhes but other leaders, including those from the Dahal faction, who came through the people´s war did not accept him as the leader.
“What troubled Dahal the most was Sah emerged as a dominant figure in Madhes. Unfortunately, Dahal could not get close to Sah,” said a Maoists leader from Madhes arguing that Dahal does not want Bhattarai to hold the mantle.
Madhes remains crucial for Dahal because there will be more election constituencies in Madhes if electoral constituencies are delineated on the basis of population. In addition, Dahal has publicly announced that he would file his candidacy from a Madhes constituency.
Interestingly, not only the Bhattarai faction, Madhes based leaders from the Shrestha and Dahal factions are also not ready to accept Jha. Some of the Madhes-based leaders have publicly raised questions over Jha´s past, while others boycotted the function held at the party´s head office in Parisdanda to welcome Jha in the party.
“I am the senior-most Madhes leader in the party,” said Ram Kumar Yadav, arguing that Jha should not be given such an important responsibility. “Yes, we have internal rifts. We will have to wait and see how the upcoming central committee meeting settles our differences.”
Similarly, the entry of the Aryal had not gone down well within the party. According to leaders from the Dahal and Bhattarai factions, Aryal´s is being viewed as Dahal´s pick to counter Yami. None of the existing women leaders -- Kamala Roka Magar, Onsari Garter Magar are from Dahal faction are same rank while Shashi Shrestha, Anjana Bishankhe and Sabina Aryal -- equal Yami in terms of her sway within the party.
“The party should give responsibility on the basis of one´s contribution to the party and not only on the basis of seniority,” said Roka Magar. According to her, the upcoming central committee meeting of the party will divide responsibilities among women leaders.
Dahal´s preference for Aryal is also guided by the fact that they were both the chief of the sister wings of the same party in the past. Later, Aryal joined the UML. The leaders from the Bhattarai faction have been expressing dissatisfaction over Aryal´s entry into the party through various news portals close to Bhattarai.
At the functions held to welcome Jha and Aryal, Dahal had assured that he would satisfy both of them by awarding them appropriate responsibilities. Jha and Aryal were party politburo members in the UML. “This means the two may be awarded positions in the party standing committee,” said a leader close to Dahal.
If the two are appointed as members of the standing committee, Aryal will be the only woman member from Dahal faction in the standing committee, while Yami would be promoted as the standing committee member from the Bhattarai faction.
Similarly, Jha will be the senior-most leader from Madhes in the party. Only Bishwanath Sah was a politburo member in past, while Prabhu and Ram Kumar Yadav are party central committee members.
“There is enough room for doubts as to how the party would move ahead. Only time will tell how the party divides responsibilities,” said central committee member Dor Prasad Upadhya, who is close to Bhattarai.