The seventh UCPN (Maoist) general convention in Hetauda has garnered the attention of the whole nation. Although the party has already endorsed its political document and settled top leadership positions ahead of the national gathering, there is a belief that the general convention will mark political transformation of the Maoist party and could be instrumental in breaking the logjam in national politics. Republica’s Kiran Pun caught up with Maoist vice-chairman and prime minister Baburam Bhattarai on the sidelines of the Heutada conclave to learn more about the general convention and the future course of national politics.
Many Maoist watchers are seeing the party’s seventh general convention as just a ritual. How should the common people understand what the Maoist general convention is all about?
Our party launched the people’s war to change the face of a semi-colonial and semi-feudal Nepal. At the end of the people’s war, we were able to transform the Nepali society, by abolishing monarchy and the unitary system. Now, our goal is to secure the gains of the people’s war like secularism and republicanism. The capitalistic revolution is complete. As such, we will now look to complete the unfinished work through peaceful means, with the ultimate goal of establishing socialism.
Will it be right to say that the general convention is just a way of lending formality to the developments since the historic Chunbang meeting in 2005?
No. Like I said, we have completed the capitalistic revolution, for which people’s war was mandatory. Now we can complete the rest of the work through peaceful means. For that we need to change our production system, from an agricultural setup to an industrial setup. We will try to enhance Nepal’s status as a sovereign and developed country by widening its international engagements.
PHOTO: KIRAN PUN
In the words of Baidya-led CPN-Maoist leaders, you have betrayed the legacy of people’s war by abandoning the revolution halfway. Is that the case?
No. It is wrong to say we left halfway. The revolution continues. Yesterday, we fought against the semi-feudal system, overthrew monarchy and ended the unitary system. This marked the completion of a phase of our revolution. Basically, we have completed our revolution. All that is left is to root out the fossils of the feudalist system that still remain.
It has also been said that the seventh general convention will mark formal conversion of UCPN (Maoist) into a parliamentary party.
This allegation is leveled by those who do not understand the Maoist party, or the nature of change of Nepali society. The Maoist party has changed according to the needs of the times. When the time was ripe for an armed struggled, we bore arms. Now that we believe peaceful politics is the way to go forward, we are walking the path of peace. So again, this is just a new phase of the revolution. We have not abandoned our old line; we have only fine-tuned it.
Does your reluctance to accept that UCPN (Maoist) is transforming into a parliamentary party stem from the defamation of traditional parliamentary parties in recent times?
Republicanism, secularism, inclusion and awareness of people was not possible through the parliamentary system. They would not have been possible without the people’s war. The people’s war brought awareness to the dalits, janajatis and other marginalized communities. We have to move ahead by safeguarding these past achievements. For that it is important that new Constituent Assembly polls be held at the earliest. This is not a traditional parliamentary course. We should all understand that all these successes were primarily achieved on the back of the people’s war.
But Chairman Dahal has said in his political document that if the peaceful path fails, there would once again be an armed struggle.
It is common rule of development of any society. If somebody obstructs the natural pace of development, there is bound to be an explosion. But that is not our current focus. Our current focus is on building peaceful and democratic Nepal, saving past achievements and making Nepali people free.
Ahead of the general convention, Maoist leaders assured the people that there would be no factionalism. But clear rifts have been witnessed starting with the selection process for general convention hall.
Unity and struggle are parts of a dialectical process. The new political document clearly says that unity and struggle are the characteristic features of our party, which will establish a new basis for unity. I genuinely believe the general convention will take party unity to new heights by synthesizing disparate strands.
Since chairman Dahal’s political document and leadership have already been endorsed before the general convention, why undergo all the hassle of such a big undertaking?
Yes, we have finalized our political document, but we can still incorporate suggestions from the floor. On the issue of leadership, it is not something that can be settled overnight. The issue has long been under discussion. I believe the team from the people’s war will be even more united after the national congress. The unity between Comrade Prachanda and myself will also reach new heights after the general convention.
While you emphasize unity, the Dahal faction has been asking you to engage in self-criticism for the Dhobighat alliance, which played an instrumental role in the party’s split.
This is a rumor that is being spread by those who are against unity in the Maoist party. They are trying to create the psychology of terror. But we will not be swayed by our detractors. After the convention, the party will be more united–organizationally and ideologically. The relation between Prachanda and Baburam will get warmer and the party will emerge to lead the country as a stronger political force.
Chairman Dahal claimed that the Maoists will come up with a formula which NC and UML won’t be able to reject. What is that?
There is no alternate to fresh CA election. We should hold it anyhow by May-end. UML and NC are agenda-less. People have boycotted them as anti-federalists. So, they are frightened to go to fresh election. Nonetheless, we will try to take NC and UML into confidence and come up with a consensus government as soon as possible. We will float our new proposal immediately after the national congress.
Is it true that the party is mulling the option of new government under the leadership of an ex-justice?
We have already floated various options. But NC an UML are not ready to face election and are only harping about government change. Now we are devising a formula that the opposition parties won’t be able to reject.
The previous options the Maoists have put forth have found no takers. How can you be sure the new proposal will be accepted?
We will make such an offer this time that if the opposition parties reject it, their veil of democracy will be lifted. We are confident that our new formula will compel NC and UML to go for new election.
Why can’t the option be disclosed now?
There is right time for everything. The formula will be disclosed only after the general convention.
There are many who believe that the Bhattarai faction is getting stronger in the party, while others claim that most representatives to the general convention are on the side of Chairman Dahal. What is the situation in reality?
We want to end this whole debate which places Prachanda and me on opposite poles. This is not the time to talk about polarization. Only internal unity will take the party to new heights.