The decision of Baburam Bhattarai to step down as UCPN (Maoist) vice chair has created ripples both within the party as well as in the broader political arena. There are all kinds of speculations about why Bhattarai quit, at the time he did. Is it a gimmick to shore up his position ahead of the impending polls? Or another ploy to further delay the much-awaited vote? Kosmos Biswokarma, Biswas Baral and Kiran Pun were at the former prime minister’s at his Sanepa residence on Tuesday morning to find some answers.Why did you resign as party vice chairman?
Resignation is the wrong word. Although I am no longer the vice-chair, I am committed to working in any capacity the party deems fit for me. There is a tendency in Nepali parties, and especially in our communist parties, for leaders to occupy important posts for their whole lives. This hampers the development of new leaders and invites all kinds of bad practices. This tendency of our leaders to cling to power and posts has resulted in great dissatisfaction among the common people. This is the reason I left my post. I did not resign.
You apparently resigned because if as proposed there were to be an internal election for office bearers, very few of your close people would be elected.
I am a materialist. I believe any incident has to be analyzed in an objective manner. In our society, there is a tendency to cook up conspiracy theories just about any event. The kind of anomalies we have been witnessing in our political culture, the way the value-based politics is being eroded, it was to address these that I did what I did. To say that someone like me who has served his party and country at the topmost level would descend to such depths is an insult, not just to myself but the whole country. I request everyone to rise from this base mentality.
How will your decision affect the chairman’s functioning?There has always been a principled understanding between us right from the war days that after a certain time we would make way for new generation leadership.
Do you imply that the chairman could also resign soon?I have started this trend and the chairman will follow suit. But he cannot quit without laying the ground for his successor. It’s a little easier for vice-chairman and those further down party hierarchy.
Don’t you believe that these disruptions in the lead up to CA polls will make the party weak?To the contrary, if it is indeed true that a political party cannot function without certain people in certain posts, then it will be truly paralyzed. A communist party has certain norms and values. A communist cadre should not angle for personal benefits, but be committed to working for the greater good of the party and people. From now on I will be even more active in political and electoral issues. This kind of voluntary sacrifice will ‘rectify’ our party, as we like to say in communist parlance. This will make the party strong and give it a clean and fresh image ahead of the election.
What are the chances of you being restored as party vice-chair?I seek the party’s rectification and establishment of politics of norms and values. I want to give out a clear message that power and post is not everything, by being an example. There is no question of me going back to my old post. But again, I believe a mechanism has to be devised whereby I can be actively involved in party activities. I believe the party will find a way out.
Do you see any possibility of your party holding internal election to fill up important posts?In a communist party, there can be an election, as and when needed. If there is consensus, there is no need for such election. But if there is no consensus, the party statute clearly provisions for settlement of disputes through the election process.
There is a lot of work to be done to clear the way for CA polls. In this situation, how productive will it be to get enmeshed in internal disputes?You have understood it the wrong way. My initiative will help solve outstanding disputes, not exacerbate them. A clear and strong message that a true communist does not need power and post to serve his party and the people will energize the whole party base, rather than demoralizing it. It will help create an atmosphere for polls and increase the appeal of UCPN (Maoist) among the masses.
You said that you will continue to be active in politics. What does this activeness imply?It means I will stay committed to carrying out any task the party entrusts me with and continue to play the role that the country and society asks of me.
Given a favorable result in CA polls, you might again be in line for Presidency or Prime Ministership. Will you be a contender?For now, I am not an aspirant for the post of prime minister or president. I am committed to the social and economic transformation of Nepal and on guiding it on the path of socialism. I will fulfill any responsibility that comes my way while I carry out this responsibility. But right now I do not aspire for any post.
Turning to national politics, will there be an election in November?There should be. What is the alternative? There is no alternative to an election in a loktantra, and especially to Constituent Assembly election.
There are plenty of disgruntled forces out to disrupt polls.I don’t take the presence of certain disruptive forces as abnormal. That happens everywhere, even in established democracies like the US and the UK. It is the right of certain parties not to join the electoral process and we should respect that. But I do believe that everybody should take part in the election irrespective of their affiliations and beliefs.
While Nepali Congress and UML seem reluctant to go to polls without Mohan Baidya on board, your party seems determined to keep the breakaway Maoist away.Again, this is one of those wild conspiracy theories that I would not like to comment on. Let me just say that for democratic forces there is no alternative to timely election.
What about the suggestions that current disagreements within the Maoists have been engineered to postpone CA polls?The political party and especially the person called Baburam Bhattarai within that party who established the agenda of Constituent Assembly, both in and outside the party, and the person who secured the highest number of votes in last CA polls, how can you accuse him of not wanting election? This is a thoroughly misguided argument.
Do you believe the polls can be successfully held without Baidya and co on board?
Efforts should be made to include everyone. But whether or not a particular political party will take part will have no bearing on the possibility of polls. State forces had conducted election even when we were waging an armed revolt to dismantle the state. The situation is much more favorable now. There is no question of the country not being able to hold election.
The Central Committee has left the decision on appointment of office bearers to the expanded meeting. Do you believe the disputes that could not be settled by the general convention will be sorted out during the expanded meeting?During the Hetauda conclave, we charted out the party’s political and ideological course. But this course has to be guided by the organizational line. Unfortunately, in Hetauda we could not dwell on organizational issues for various reasons. You might view the expanded meeting as an extension of the Hetauda congress which will complete the organizational restructuring.
Some interpret current disputes as the sign of failure of the party’s declared ambition to create a ‘new kind of communist party’ and believe the party is on the brink of another breakup.During the expanded meeting we will devise strategies to create the new kind of communist party that we discussed during the Hetauda conclave. There is no question of the party breaking up again. The expanded meeting will look to fill up the space that has been there since our formal entry into peaceful politics in 2006.
Is there any prospect of unification with Baidya-led Maoists? There were rumors that the Chinese State Councilor who was in Nepal recently egged Baidya to unite with the mother party?I believe our media needs to be a little more responsible in reporting these things. First of all, I do not believe the Chinese State Councilor held any such meeting with Baidya. That is not how Chinese diplomatic protocol works. So far as our party’s stand is concerned, we believe that there should be a single communist force in the country. This should include the breakaway Maoists, other smaller communist parties as well as CPN-UML. This is our ideological stand. We have kept the option of dialogue open, but I don’t see any immediate prospect of Baidyaji rejoining the mother party.