The possibility of a split in UCPN (Maoist) has for sometime been considered only a matter of time. Even on Wednesday, there were hectic parlays between the Maoist establishment faction under Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the rebel faction under Vice-chair Mohan Baidya to avert the impending division. Kiran Pun and Biswas Baral talked to Baidya on the same day on the likelihood of the Maoist party staying united and on the course of discussions in the last few days.
Going by recent media reports it appears that the Maoist party is united only in name and a formal split is only a matter of time. Is that really the case?
Any party is based on certain ideology and principles. If a meeting point can be found on these, the party will remain one, otherwise it will split. En route from people’s war to the current stage we have made some decisions, but the party establishment has been flouting those agreements one after another. The task of preparing a people-oriented constitution could also not be fulfilled. The issue of army integration could not be carried out in a dignified manner. In this situation, it is clear that both Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal as well as Vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai have not been successful in carrying out previous agreements. That is why we have called for national gathering so that these issues can be settled. Hopefully, things will be clearer after the national gathering on June 15.
What are the minimum conditions for the party to stay united?
First, the establishment needs to review all its past failings. We had been saying that the issue of army integration had to be carried out in a proper manner. What happened instead was that the Maoist leadership agreed to integration in haste. It is even less justifiable now that it has not resulted in a constitution. Second, in the final stretch of the constitution making process, vital discussions should have been held inside the CA. What happened instead was that the top leaders, mainly of the three big parties, got together and carried out discussions behind closed doors. Effectively, the loktantrik process was usurped by three leaders from an assembly of 601. The (party) chairman must take responsibility for this great failure.
Third, we entered people’s war to carry out a democratic revolution centered on establishment of a people’s federal republic. The chairman abandoned that tactical line in favor of a loktantrik republic. How could they accept loktantrik republic when our agenda was clearly people’s federal republic? The party’s official stand is that there should be a people-based constitution based on our vision of people’s federal republic. Since the chairman abandoned the party’s official line, he should explain why. Fourth, the people’s war was aimed at safeguarding the country’s sovereignty. What the leadership has done is completely overlooked this. As a result, the country has become a playing field of international interests. The issue of India’s growing influence in the country has also been completely overlooked. Instead, all our important water sources have been sold. Take the case of Upper Karnali and Arun III projects, which were granted by sidestepping the parliament. Or the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) that Baburam Bhattarai signed with India. All these have raised a serious question on the country’s sovereignty status. So we have been demanding that the leadership be serious about reviewing these agreements.
Fifth, the establishment is now talking about reelection of the Constituent Assembly. This is nonsense. It has become abundantly clear that other alternatives have to be explored to find a way out of the current political and constitutional vacuum. We have proposed a roundtable conference with the participation of all parties as well as representatives from marginalized groups and all classes and sections of the society. That conference should decide the country’s future governance and a way out of the current crisis.
Can these conditions be met without the resignation of Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai which you have been demanding?
After the government was declared a caretaker, the issue of prime minister’s resignation is irrelevant. What is more important is that the proposals forwarded at the party’s official meets be taken seriously. What is happening now is that we put forth certain proposals and the chairman assures us that all of them will be addressed. What happens instead is that the chairman forgets about the proposals even before the ink on it has dried. This happened during the Palangtur plenum, the Kharipati plenum and also in the course of our most recent negotiations. We want the party leadership to hear our voice.
You have said that both the tactical line and leadership of the establishment faction has failed. Are you suggesting that the leadership make way?
We have never raised the question of the chairman’s resignation. It is the chairman who popularized the concept. I have told him that resignation is no solution to the current crisis. Instead, he should correct his course on party tactical line and politics.
There have been media reports that you proposed party presidency for yourself and prime ministership for Ram Bahadur Thapa as a possible meeting point.
That is not true. I think Biplap (Netra Bikram Chand) said it in a particular context. But he also suggested that the leadership correct its course on tactical and political line. We have never made and will never make posts a bargaining chip during discussions. What you also got to remember is that the chairman announced he was ready to step down but the very next day he said he was not ready to give up the post as yet. Thus neither did the chairman ever offer to resign in good faith nor have we ever made his resignation an issue in our discussions.
Neither did the chairman ever offer to resign in good faith nor have we ever made his resignation an issue in our discussions.
But hasn’t the party been vertically split, right from the top leadership to the grassroots level? In such a situation how acceptable will a negotiated settlement among top leaders be?
One of the reasons we are holding the national convention on June 15 is to settle this question. But I also think that any initiative towards this end has to be taken at the leadership level.
There are speculations that as in Palungtar and Kharipati, you will again compromise and a split will be avoided.
No, we will not compromise on our agenda this time.
Chairman Dahal has said that you don’t have the guts to break the party.
I think that is a statement made to provoke us. We will not succumb to such provocations. Ultimately, what decides whether the party stays one or not depends on whether there can be a meeting point on party line and politics. Our goal is to keep the party united, but we want the unity to be based on the establishment’s course correction. If the leadership does not acknowledge its failings and is not ready to make any kind of course correction, there can be no unity.
With the CA gone, you have ratcheted up the pressure for ‘people’s revolt’ again. Do you think this agenda will find adherents among common Nepalis?
First of all, people’s revolt is not just the line of a particular faction. It is the official line of the Maoist party. Even our official document mentions that our first priority would be promulgation of people-centered constitution, failing which the party would go for people’s revolt. What the party leadership has been doing is spreading a lie that it is only us who are in favor of a revolt.
But how can you be confident that you will get the support of common people for this line?
Look, we are in the process of making a people-centered constitution. The situation now is that the leadership has failed to come up with any kind of constitution, leave alone a people-centered constitution. Isn’t this a sign of a serious failure? In the name of army integration, it made the PLA surrender. It agreed to identity-based federalism, but during negotiations accepted the 11-province model that completely overlooked the identity question. People understand this duplicity well. They also understand how the leadership has compromised on the question of country’s sovereignty. How it has sidelined the vital issues of janajatis and other marginalized communities. So our main agenda will be how the traditional democratic forces and the Maoist leadership have broken people’s trust.
Doesn’t the radical line adopted by your faction on the left and, say, that of RPP (Nepal) on the right risk further polarization of an already polarized society?
If you look at the divisions within parties, be it NC, UML or our own party, at the root of the disagreements is the political leadership’s failure to address people’s problems. This, I believe, is the primary cause of political polarization. The only way such a polarization can be minimized is if the parties adopt people-centered policies. What we are seeing now is that almost all the parties are primarily concerned about power politics rather than solving people’s problems. The way out is for all the political parties to hold wide-ranging discussions on ways to secure people’s interests.
If there is a rupture in the Maoist party, will the new breakaway party take part in future elections?
The prime minster has proposed new CA polls for November 22. There is no question of taking part in it because no such poll will take place on the scheduled date. As far as our participation in electoral process is concerned, it all depends on the future context. As communists, we will take part in the process if it corresponds to our ultimate goals, if not, we will stay out.
In the end, how hopeful are you that the current round of dialogue with party establishment will be fruitful in keeping the party intact? There have been media reports that the talks have been constructive.
We hope the talks can be constructive and contribute toward taking the party forward as a single, strong entity. The talks have not been constructive if you are implying that they have led to definite solutions. But definitely, we are trying to work our way to those solutions. Let’s wait and see what happens.