Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Will Biplab deliver?

Nabin Bibhas
Netra Bikram Chanda alias Comrade Biplab is mostly busy outside the capital. Purpose? Not long after splitting from Mohan Baidya-led CPN-M, his party CPN M is engaged in Maoist insurgency-era type 'dream cultivation' among the rural folks afar from the capital. Arguing that the UCPN (Maoist) as well as the CPN-M no longer stand for the revolutionary cause, Biplab is presenting his party as one that will complete the 'revolution', which he says was left half way by Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and Baburam Bhattarai. 

For this, CPN M has constituted its own government, 'People's Council', led by Santosh Budha Magar, chief of Magarat Autonomous Region during the insurgency and lawmaker of from Rolpa-2 in first CA, at the central level, and has its extensions at the district level. The structure aims to spread to the grassroots level before the local election is held.
But is Biplab serious about his intensions, or is he doomed to be another Prachanda?
Who is Biplab?
Born of Magar mother and Thakuri father in Gojakhola of Kewari, Rolpa, Biplab went to district headquarter Libang for schooling as a class three student. He stayed in a hostel there with his two elder brothers – Chandara Bahadur Chanda alias Comrade Bir Jung who contested from Kapilbastu in the first CA election, and Jayandra Bahadur Chanda, chief of the Maoist's sports wing - and studied in Bal Kalyan Secondary School.
As the sons of Mukkhe (village chief), their personalities often clashed with Krishna Bahadur Gharti Magar and his younger brothers, the sons of the President of Rolpa District Panchayat Amrit Bahadur Gharti Magar.
Krishna, ex-president of Nepali Congress, Rolpa, shared with this scribe that Biplab was strong in commitment and was confident as long as he can remember. The attachment of hostel life remained, and after the insurgency began, Krishna sent a message to Biplab that he was ready to facilitate enrolling Biplab's sons and daughter to study in his boarding school at Libang. But Biplab denied, instead enrolling them into government schools.
Biplab entered capital as a student of law in Law Campus. He was the chairman of the party's student wing's Rolpa district committee. Later, he became vice-chairman of central committee.
When the 'People's War' kicked off in 1996, he was the secretary of Lalitpur district. He was transferred to Karnali in 1998, assigned with the task of sowing seeds of Maoist 'revolution'. As a party central committee member, he founded and extended party structure including military front in Karnali.
Among the party's youths and cadres, he earned the reputation of being a good organizer and a good listener. His simple lifestyle and a personality who cadres could easily access has earned him a reputation of being someone who attempts to live as per the theory he preaches.
He served as the political commissar in the biggest attacks like Beni and second attack on Khara. Prachanda was also beside Biplab during the Khara battle, the only battle the Maoist chief observed closely from the field during the entire 10-year insurgency. He was also designated as the in-charge of Maoist base area, Rapti from 2002 to 2006. He lived with chairman Prachanda during this period. The two became very close, and both came to know the workings of each other's mind.
Prachanda-Biplab rift and CPN-M
Chunbang meeting, 2005, which became the turning point for Maoist movement since it formally charted a course that would eventually lead the party to adopt parliamentary political system, carved clear rift between Dahal and Biplab.
Dahal harbored a fear that Biplab could obstruct his path to power in Kathmandu because they knew each other well. So he transferred the latter to Seti-Mahakali region from Maoist heartland Rolpa. He also cracked Biplab's 'gang' consisting of Shakti Bahadur Basnet, Janardan Sharma and Kul Prasad KC. But Biplab didn’t lose hope. He tried to organize all dissatisfactions raised in the party's 5th meeting in Balaju, 2007.
After the Maoists entered peace process, Prachanda agreed with parliamentary parties to restore police posts across the country but the party's central committee meeting decided against it. Around the same time, weapons were looted from nine police posts in Nepalgunj areas under Biplab's leadership.
With Baburam Bhattarai's backing, Prachanda attempted to sack Biplab, but Ram Bahadur Thapa 'Badal' protested the move. Following this, Prachanda circulated directions to the PLA commanders to not enter the cantonments.
Meanwhile, Biplab focused on strengthening his base on the ground by winning the hearts of the lower-rung cadres. He put his all efforts to materialize the dissatisfactions.
Biplab had sensed that his faction lacked a towering personality. But this problem was resolved after he convinced Mohan Baidya and Badal. Indicating to Biplab, Prachanda told in Kharipati meeting, 2010 that he knew very well who was shooting gun from over Baidya's shoulder.
Finally, a group of Maoist leadres led by Baidya, and including other prominent leaders as Badal, Biplab, among others, split from the UCPN (Maoist) as CPN-Maoist in 2012.
The leaders from the UCPN (Maosit) led by Prachanda attacked Biplab than they did Baidya and Badal.
His room was always full of cadres while he was in the capital. But mostly he would be out in the fields outside Kathmandu, while his other comrades remained in the capital, their efforts mostly centered on gaining access to power centers in the party and the government. While his counterparts became ministers in different governments after the Comprehensive Peace Accord, Biplab always rejected the ministerial portfolios offered to him.
Biplab has the opportunity to take ownership of all that the major Maoist party UCPN (Maoist) has been criticized of deserting - the legacy of the 'People's War' and leftist agenda in general. With the Maoists shifting towards the center of the political spectrum, the political space is devoid of the ultra-left, a space Biplab can claim.  Similarly, the new faces are attracted to his party.
Given his strong base on the ground, Biplab possess the possibility of appealing to a large section of ex-PLA and lower-level UCPN-M cadres who have faced humiliation at the hands of NC and CPN-UML for 'fighting' to transform the socio-political structure, but ultimately 'failing' to do so and return to the very society they fervently argued needed reform. And, there is popular sentiment, especially in the rural areas that could turn to Biplab if he can convince that he is genuine and take action against corruption.
Likewise, the failure of the new constitution to address dissatisfactions of Madhes, dalit and janajatis can also be plus point to uplift his movement.
Just like in the insurgency time, it’s the young generation, mostly below 30 years of age, who Biplab has to appeal to propel his movement.
Biplab's team is not inclusive in terms of representations of different geographical and ethnic communities. Madhes, eastern Nepal, and the regions of Tharuwan and Tamuwan are absent from Biplab's party.
During the insurgency, the Maoists inculcated in the common psyche the imagination of a classless society. The cadres as well as the common people saw how these were just dreams, nothing more. Biplab therefore has a challenge to tread through these disbelief and frustrations that have become rife as a consequence. To emerge a leader of the new revolution, he has ahead of him a daunting task of winning the hearts that have been shattered.
The cadres and people are skeptical about Biplab, suspecting that he could just turn out to be another Prachanda, for whom the sacrifices of the people and cadres merely became stepping ladder to achieve political power.
Much talks, less work is what the Maoist movement turned out to be. The leadership level was marred by a clash of personalities that diverted the party from the objectives it championed. Biplab has to show, not tell. He will not enjoy the benefit of doubt that the Maoists enjoyed when they entered the peace process. The 48-year-old once told his brother Jayandra not to commit any mistakes because he wanted to walk very 'far'.
from setopati

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