maya baiguni nabhai nahuni [love is unappreciative but always necessary]
Maoist cadres say Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and Baburam Bhattarai need each other. They may not be in good terms, but they cannot part their ways.
For twenty four years, Dahal and Bhattarai were at the helm of the Maoist party, and their personal interests and ambitions clashed so often that the cadres frequently recalled this song.
This will no longer be the case. Three years after the 'breakup' with his hardliner friend Mohan Baidya, Dahal also spilt with his 'wise enemy' Bhattarai. A 'wise enemy' is better than a 'fool friend', Dahal said at the Chunbang meeting in 2003.
Dahal and Bhattarai both hail from the lower middle-class Bahun families from Chitwan and Gorkha respectively. They passed SLC exams the same year, in 1970. Bhattarai topped the exam to become "board first"; Dahal passed in second division. Dahal was extrovert while Bhattarai was introvert. In one aspect, though, their attitude converged - both had high political ambitions.
Both joined left-wing politics after completing formal education - Dahal studied Agriculture and Bhattarai secured a Ph.D from JNU, New Delhi.
In the 5th General Convention (1984) of CPN (Mashal), Mohan Baidya-led faction sacked Mohan Bikram Singh from the party. Bhattarai joined CPN (Masal) formed by Singh.
Dahal was of the view that CPN (Mashal) would be 'a perfect party’ only after Bhattarai joined in. Baidya [who Dahal believed to be a master in the field of philosophy] and Ram Bahadur Thapa 'Badal' [who, in Dahal's view, was a master in the field of military] already were in his party. So, Dahal was keen to welcome Bhattarai to his party.
What finally brought the two together was the unification of four left-wing parties to form CPN (Unity Centre). Among the parties that came together were CPN (Mashal) led by Dahal, Sarbaharabadi Shramik Sangathan led by Rup Lal Bishwakarma, Forth General Convention led by Nirmal Lama and CPN (Rebel Masal) led by Haribol Gajurel (of which Bhattarai was a part).
For a significant portion of the next 24 years, they were to occupy the leading roles in the Maoist party. Yet, theirs was a love and hate relationship.
Dahal-Bhattarai rifts were related to 'power sharing' under the cover of 'ideological differences'. Maoist leaders say that both of them are in the same rank when it comes to individual ambitions. In fact, the entire party is centralized around the personal interests and resulting clashes between Dahal and Bhattarai.
Interestingly, every time Dahal-Bhattarai tussle ensued, it put the entire party into disarray, causing the clash to spill right down to the lower-level leaders and cadres. However, the two leaders were successful in keeping the relation intact.
The 10-year long 'people's war' made the two leaders known at both national and international level. After the first Constituent Assembly election, they both served as the executive head of the country. Both of them are responsible for taking the Maoist party to a peak and for its tragic downfall. The recent announcement of Bhattarai to quit from the party is just another edition of the series of dissolution the Maoist party has faced after joining the peace process.
What caused Dahal-Bhattarai rift?
The 'chief' of the Samyukta Janamorcha Nepal (Joint People's Front) - the election contending party of the CPN (Unity Center) - was the seed of Dahal-Bhattarai rift. In 1994, chief of CPN (Unity Center) Dahal replaced JPF chief Bhattarai by Pampha Bhusal. Dahal argued that Bhattarai had been promoted to the party's core-group consisting of Dahal, Baidya and Ram Bahadur 'Badal' and said he should also go 'underground' along with the group. But Bhattarai interpreted that decision as an 'action' against him. He argued that by seizing JPF chief, Dahal was trying to 'subtract' him from the party.
Another cause of differences between them was their interpretation of the history of leftist struggle in Nepal. Dahal argued that it was CPN (Mashal) that made preparations to launch the 'people's war' while Bhattarai countered saying it began only after the formation of CPN (Unity Centre).
Bhattarai being SLC board topper and chief of the JPF was established in and outside the party. However, Dahal was not. The impression among the common people was that Bhattarai was the party chief. Considering these situations, Dahal floated a formal agenda to 'establish his leadership' through the 4th extended meeting in 1999. Bhattarai stood against this proposal. However, the party decided to carry Dahal's quotes in all the articles written and published by party leaders/cadres and also to make his photograph public in order to establish Dahal's leadership.
Dahal-Bhattarai rift erupted again over the detention of a dozen Maoist leaders including Baidya, CP Gajurel, Lokendra Bista Magar, Kul Prasad KC, Tara Gharti Magar, Suresh Ale Magar, Matrika Yadav in India in 2004. Dahal accused Bhattarai of the arrests, claiming that the latter had in fact attempted to have him arrested.
Following the arrests, the party declared India as the party's main enemy and argued that the party should announce a tunnel war against the southern neighbor. Bhattarai opposed this move as well. He alleged Dahal of being a Darbar parast [pro-monarchy]. Dahal, meanwhile, termed Bhattarai as Bharat parast [pro-India]. Three years after the Maoist came to the peace process, Dahal said at the 'closed training session' to the cadres at Khanna garment [capital] in 2009 that India wants to see Bhattarai as the Prime Minister.
This comment created a fresh rift between the leaders.
Another matter of contention among Dahal and Bhattarai was their views on what constituted the party's 'main problem'. Analyzing this 'problem' was the main agenda of politburo meeting held at Maysore, India, 2003. Dahal argued that the main problem was 'anarchism' and alleged Bhattarai of exposing party's internal plans; Bhattarai saw the problem elsewhere - in Dahal's 'bureaucratic working style'.
The meeting declared 'tunnel war' against India.
After returning to Nepal, Dahal voiced for centralized leadership in Phuntibang meeting, 2004, arguing that decentralized leadership would be failed to make tunnel war a success. Bhattarai opposed and resigned from the post of party standing committee immediately.
Bhattarai now held the top position of only one structure within the party - the joint front named Revolutionary People's Front. Dahal was in control of the entire party as well as the military [People's Liberation Army]. Some months after the Phuntibang meeting, Bhattarai submitted a four-point and fourteen-point note of dissent. Then the Labang meeting, 2005, sacked Bhattarai and kept him in custody in Rolpa.
The 'cold war' between the top two Maoist leaders heightened in the Palungtar plenum in 2010. After the meeting, Dahal sided with the political line of revolt floated by Baidya. Bhattarai registered a note of dissent.
The gathering of party leaders Baidya, Bhattarai, Vice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Sonam Sathi factions in Dhobighat in 2011 against the bureaucratic working style of the Dahal widened gap between the leaders. The output of meeting, Bhattarai became candidate of PM.
Bhattarai's election to the post of prime minister in 2011 gave him, perhaps for the first time, a sense of being at the helm of the party power, something that had eluded him for years. [For a long time, Bhattarai faction had been saying that since he owns party's current political line, he should get party leadership. They argued: Jasako bichar usaiko netritwa [whosoever's ideology the party carries should lead the party]. Meanwhile, during Bhattarai's premiership Dahal accused Bhattarai of diverting the resources that came to Lazimpat (Dahal's residence) towards Baluwatar.
After the rise of Arbind Kejeriwal in Delhi, Bhattarai vocally called upon a need of a naya Shakti - new political force - in Nepal, arguing that his party needed reform.
Sources at the party say that Dahal had assured Bhattarai of the post of co-chairman after a faction led by party's vice-chairman Mohan Baidya split in 2012. As Dahal did not keep up to his words, Bhattarai resigned from the post of vice chairman after Hetauda General Convention, 2013.
And until he quit the party, he was active as the party's senior leader and in consolidating the position of his faction within the party.
Although Dahal and Bhattarai claimed that the tussle between them was ideological. Yet, this was not reflected in practice; it would not be wrong to state that their tussle was a result of clash of personalities.
Reason for 'breakup'
It is true that Bhattarai never got comradely behavior from his comrades in the party. Dahal faction always treated him as an outcast terming him as Bharat parasta. He did not quit even when he was sacked [31 Jan 2003] and put into Maoist custody during the insurgency; rather, he spent a long time with a feeling of humiliation. It's also true, though, that he benefitted from the party - by becoming the PM for instance.
But why did he quit now while his stature in the party was stronger than in the past?
More than a decade after the Chunbang meeting where the party adopted his political line, Bhattarai was in the waiting for the post of party chief, arguing that the party was heading along his political line he suggested. His optimism soared after Baidya quit in 2012, more so as Dahal also assured him of co-chairmanship. But Dahal did not show any sign of handing over the party leadership.
Perhaps, Bhattarai then realized that he had neither succeeded at making his hold in the party organizations, nor at persuading Dahal to hand him the party leadership. His resignation from the party's vice chairman was an indication of this realization. Indeed, prior to quitting the party, Bhattrai remarked how Dahal is a champion at making false promises.
The reducing size of the party owing to multiple splits is another reason for Bhattarai's decision to quit. Moreover, cadres have blamed that the political and emotional bond that once connected them with the leadership no longer exists, with the leaders guided more by personal ambitions.
Moreover, a huge loss suffered by the UCPN (Maoist) in the 2nd CA election questioned the strength of the political line championed by Bhattarai.
Let's now look at Bhattarai's explanation for quitting the party. Addressing the press meet organized to announce his decision to quit, Bhattarai said UCPN (M) is a thotro ghar - an old, uninhabitable house. Two weeks later, addressing a program at Nawalaparasai, he repeated his comments, comparing UCPN (M) to a house rendered uninhabitable by the recent earthquake in Nepal.
Perhaps, view of the Maoist youth leader Deepshikha's fits the context. He writes in khabardabali.com: "UCPN (Maoist) is no longer a political party. There is only a sign board at the Paris Danda and registered in election commission."
His ex-comrade and former minister Gopal Kirati, meanwhile, made satirical remarks upon Bhattarai's decision to quit. According to him, Bhattarai quit because he completed his mission - dissolution of Maoist party and its conversion into parliamentary party. Similarly,Chairman himself floated 25-point reform proposal in CC meeting of 14 Dec 2014.
Analyzing different aspects of Bhattarai's lead us to conclude that his exit can be taken as merely another edition of the dissolution of the Maoist party.
The Maoist insurgency led by Dahal and Bhattarai was largely responsible for spreading political consciousness at the grassroots level. It was the outcome of the 'people's war' that the common people began raising their voice for their rights. Similarly, republicanism and secularism are also the achievement of the Maoist conflict. However, these achievements came at a heavy cost - over 16,000 deaths, thousands of injured and about 2000 disappeared, in addition to thousands of youths who devoted a prime phase of their life in the war.
Moreover, these achievements are not enough for the common people including the cadres who invested important part of their life in the war. What they expected from the 'people's war' was tangible changes in their lifestyle.
Was the 'people's war' waged to uplift the life of the common people as the Maoist leaders claim, or was it waged merely to use it as a stepping ladder for leaders like Dahal and Bhattarai? The common people answer it is the latter.
Whether or not Dahal and Bhattarai stick to the same party, they both have to answer to the thousands of those who were killed, injured or disappeared during the conflict including devoted cadres and innocent public. Especially those youths who the Maoist leaders instigated to join the insurgency with promises of classless new Nepal.