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Bhattarai Defeated, Prachanda In Full Control Of UCPN(M)

Posted by chimeki on May 8, 2014


baburamThe national convention of the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) held in Biratnagar ended in a humiliating defeat for its influential leader Dr Baburam Bhattarai. The convention, which was aimed at strengthening the party by resolving the differences between its two big leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai only aggravated the situation and exposed, once again, fissures in the party. Bhattarai has been completely sidelined and it is now certain that Prachanda will continue to enjoy the absolute authority in the party.

Many of Bhattarai’s old friends and associates left him in the lurch to join the ultimate winner of the years’ old battle for party’s control. Prachanda once again proved that when it comes to settling scores with his rivals he is as merciless as his idol Jung Bahadur Rana of Nepal.

After the second Constituent Assembly election last November, in which the party performed poorly, Bhattarai’s loyalists have been pressurizing Prachanda to step down from the top post. Often Bhattarai used public space to make his point.. His opinion that there was a need of new force, expressed in Kantipur Daily, was seen as a direct challenge to Prachanda’s authority.

Bhattarai also tried to forge alliance with another powerful but disgruntled leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha to win majority in the party’s central committee. Had he succeeded the alliance would have balanced the power and forced Prachanda to heed to Bhattarai’s demand. But Shreshta, a newcomer, proved himself to be too weak to keep a check on his loyalists.

In the convention Prachanda proposed the Central Committee, CC, that he will always keep him in majority. In the new 99 member CC there are less than 30 members from Bhattarai and Shrestha factions! After a long time Prachanda has gained an upper hand in the party. This is reflecting in his body language too. In a press conference after the convention, he spoke with the confidence of a supreme leader. He told journalists that ‘he will give important position to Bhattarai’.

Later, speaking at the inaugural ceremony of party’s mouthpiece Prasthan, Prachanda told the gathering that he had promoted Bhattarai to the party’s highest committee with the view that it would benefit party but it proved to be a mistake. Prahanda further humiliated Bhattarai by telling people that the old communist leaders and cadres had advised him not to elevate Bhattarai beyond district committee!

The sudden turn of the event had come as a shock to Bhattarai and his loyalists. In June 2012 the UCPNM split vertically. The party watchers thought that the development would make Bhattarai stronger for had long represented the line of multi-party democracy and peaceful struggle for socialism against hardliners’ line of ‘people’s revolt’ to establish socialism.

Initially both Prachanda and Bhattarai saw the split as a boon as it gave them the opportunity to take party out of the ‘People’s War’ mode. The immediately held Hetauda convention endorsed the line of ‘peaceful road to Socialism in Nepal’. The party declared that its basic goal was to promote economic growth.

The convention also led to the formation of Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi’s caretaker or impartial government to hold Constituent Assembly election. The party had imagined a bigger victory in the election. However the result showed that it had exaggerated its strengthen. The party lost badly and ended up being the number 3 party in the Constituent Assembly.

Since then Bhattarai and Prachanda never saw eye to eye. Bhattarai never missed opportunity to show Prachanda his place. Bhattarai thought that Prachanda had lost his appeal amongst the cadre and it was matter of time when curtain would fell on him. However Bhattarai poorly judged his own strength in the party. No doubt he is more acceptable to the urban population of Nepal than Prachanda but organizationally he is very weak. He failed to realise that the split has weakened him further for there was no one to support him organizationally. Previously, Mohan Baidya ‘Kiran’ had come to his rescue whenever Prachanda wanted to ‘penalize’ him for his ‘mistake’.

Wisely, judging the way the wind was blowing his known loyalists like Dinanath Sharma and Ram Karki left him to side with Prachanda.

By reading Bhattarai statements after the convention it can be said that he understands that his is the lost case. There is no way Bhattarai can challenge Prachanda. Even if he tries, it would not be consequential and only make Prachanda’s work easy. He must have realised that hitherto Prachanda kept him in good term to resist hardliners. With the hardliners, Bhattarai’s relevance in the party too had gone.

V.S.

(First published in the Citizen, 8 May 2014)

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