KATHMANDU, June 2: The feeling of dissent among the leaders representing ethnic, indigenous and other marginalized communities within the CPN-UML has reached a boiling point as the party leadership allegedly didn´t become ready to address their demand to restructure the country in line with identity-based federal model.
The party´s leaders representing various ethnic and indigenous communities have announced in public that they could go to the extent of quitting the party if the leadership continued to remain indifferent to their demand.
Top party leaders have already held some rounds of talks with ethnic leaders but the latter are less hopeful of the party addressing their concerns.
Second-rung leaders including Surendra Pandey and Gokarna Bista, who have been asked to coordinate with the dissenting party rank and file, claimed that key leaders from indigenous communities such as Vice-chairman Ashok Rai and politburo members Prthivi Subba Gurung and Ram Chandra Jha will not desert the party. But the dissident leaders said they are frustrated by the response of the top leaders.
"We are not quite hopeful as our discussions with the party leaders have yielded no positive results till now," said Gurung, who headed the caucus of lawmakers representing the ethnic and indigenous communities from various political parties in the last parliament.
Asked if they are planning to quit the party, Gurung said he is not sure and it will depend on how the party addresses their concerns.
However, Bista said that the talks are heading toward positive direction and they will find a middle way solution within a couple of days. "I firmly believe that leaders like Gurung who have worked for decades in the UML will not quit the party," Bista told Republica.
But Gurung said how could they continue in the party as the top leaders denounce them for raising issues of the communities they represent.
Former UML lawmaker Rijwan Ansari said they were compelled to revolt within the party as the leadership failed to fight for the liberation of downtrodden communities.
He said that they will first try to correct the top leaders and press them to restructure the party and to ensure proportional representation of oppressed and marginalized communities in the party standing committee, politburo and other bodies.
"We may quit the UML if we fail to transform it into a common organization of all caste groups, religions and downtrodden communities," Ansari told Republica.
He said the party leadership should call the special convention if needed for the purpose of revamping the party structure.
Mangalsiddhi Manandhar said he is mulling quiting UML as the party leaders didn´t listen to the concerns of the ethnic and indigenous groups. He said a new political force might emerge if they quit the party.
Vice-chairman Rai and politburo members Prithivi Subba and Jha didn´t attend the party´s politburo meeting Friday.
Prithivi Subba said it was not that they boycotted the meeting but they couldn´t manage to attend it as they were informed too late and they were scheduled to attend another function in the capital.
Also, Jha, Prithivi Subba, Kiran Gurung and Dal Bahadur Rana didn´t attend a gathering of former UML lawmakers held at the party´s head office in Balkhu. Party chairman Jhalanath Khanal and former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal had addressed the gathering.
While the leaders from ethnic and indigenous communities have been calling for state restructuring along ethnic lines, the UML leadership has opposed the idea saying that such a move will invite ethnic conflict in the country.
Former UML lawmaker Pasang Sherpa quit the party earlier this week. Several leaders said whether more will quit will largely depend on how the top leaders respond to their demands.
Some argued that a large section of party rank and file from ethnic and indigenous communities might be attracted toward the new political force and the agenda of ethnic and indigenous communities. "See how lately the entire society seems to be in the grip of communal issues. So one can´t predict about the attraction," said a UML leader preferring anonymity.
But other leaders beg to differ. They said that the UML cadres are the ones who have learnt a lesson from the party´s division. "It was only a few years ago they split the party to form the CPN-ML led by Bamdev Gautam with great enthusiasm, but they had to return to the mother party after they could not win any seat in the parliamentary election," said a leader. "This is one of the factors discouraging cadres to quit the party."