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Bhattarai severs ties with UCPN (Maoist)

  • Tight-lipped about his next move; says old Maoist movement cannot appeal to the new generation
- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, Kathmandu

Sep 27, 2015-

Six days after the promulgation of the new constitution, former prime minister Baburam Bhattarai severed his ties with the UCPN (Maoist) citing the need for a new party “in the changed circumstances”, ending months of speculation about Bhattarai’s political direction amid growing differences with the party chairman.

In typical Maoist speak, Bhattarai said a “new era called for a new party and new way of leadership and that yestarday’s Maoist movement will not be able to address the aspirations of the new generation”. Organising a press meet on Saturday, Bhattarai said he had resigned from all party positions, party membership and Parliament.

Bhattarai, an architect of the 10-year-long insurgency, remained tight-lipped about his next step—only stating that he would remain an ordinary citizen for some time.

In his solo press conference, there was conspicuous absence of other leaders from the Bhattarai camp.

Leaders close to Bhattarai suggesst that he could register a new party within several months from now, bringing together youth leaders from other parties and the civil society.

During the press conference, Bhattarai deplored the tacit blockade imposed by India on supply of essential goods to Nepal, while underlining the need to settle differences with India through diplomatic channels. He said legitimate concerns of the Madhes-based parties should be addressed and that the demand for autonomous provinces should be addressed.

Rivalry

For a long time, Bhattarai advocated a change in the party’s ideology along with the leadership style. He has had an uneasy working relationship with party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

Bhattarai, however, did not decide to sever ties with the party overnight. In June, 2013, Bhattarai resigned as the Maoist vice-chairman and was serving as a senior leader of the party. Though the party rejected his resignation, he refused to take any formal position in the party. His demand, however, was clear: the chairman should hand over the party reins to him. Despite repeated commitments, Dahal refused to hand over the party leadership to Bhattarai.

Soon after he resigned as the vice-chair, Bhattarai floated the idea of a new political force. In his public remarks, he has been saying that he would go for a new party if the UCPN (M) fails to change, which he reiterated even after promulgation of the new constitution.

Dahal and Bhattarai, in fact, had a long history of “uneasy alliance”. Even while underground, Dahal faction viewed Bhattarai with suspicion, regarding him as pro-Indian. In the press meet, Bhattarai also recalled that Chairman Dahal had taken action against him and put him under house arrest in 2004 when he advocated an alliance with parliamentary parties.

He said Dahal was not in favour of drafting a new constitution in 1990. “Due to the dispute in the party, we did not clearly mention the CA agenda in 1996 when we started the People’s War,” Bhattarai told the media.

Though close colleagues for over two decades, the two leaders have had troubled relationship since 1990s. In 1985, Dahal left the CPN (Masal) led by Mohan Bikram Singh--a party Bhattarai was associated with and formed the Mashal party (another party with the same name with just spelling difference).

The Mashal party was first led by Mohan Baidya and later the leadership was handed over to Dahal. But Bhattarai remained with Singh stating that Dahal and Baidya lacked a clear ideology. However, the formation of the CPN (Unity Centre) in 1991 brought Dahal and Bhattarai together in the same party again. The first convention of Unity Centre in 1992 endorsed the line of “protracted people’s war”.

After joining peaceful politics in 2006, rivalry between Dahal and Bhattarai resurfaced. Bhattarai underlined the need for promulgation of a new constitution at any cost to institutionalise republicanism, secularism and federalism. Party senior leader Mohan Baidya underlined the need for a revolt. Dahal took a middle path.

When they appeared together publicly after Jana Andolan-II in Baluwatar, both the leaders wore a uniform. They even lived together for some time in the same house in Nayabaazar, Kathmandu, after they joined mainstream politics. However, differences surfaced between the two in both the Kharipati meeting in 2008 and the sixth party plenum in 2010. In these meetings, Dahal was in favour of declaring India as the party’s principal enemy, but Bhattarai was against it. Bhattarai also criticised Dahal for his ambiguous position on peace and constitution.

Again, relations between the two began to normalise after the party adopted the line of peace and constitution in 2011, abandoning the “protracted people’s war”. After Dahal and Bhattarai apparently came closer, senior leader Mohan Baidya left the party to form a new one in May 2012 after the dissolution of the first Constituent Assembly.

Constitution

When the constitution drafting process reached a final stage earlier this month, the differences between two leaders surfaced strongly again. Bhattarai was of the view that the voting process should be postponed for some period to accommodate the Madhes-based parties, while Dahal was in favour of a vote in the CA as soon as possible. Vice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha had sided with Bhattarai on addressing the demands of Madhesis and Tharus. But Dahal was clearly against any pause in the process.

“The constitution drafting process is a matter of happiness but half of the population of the country did not celebrate the promulgation of the new constitution,” Bhattarai said, adding that the demands of Tharus, Madhesis, and women and Dalits had not been addressed in the new constitution. The Chunwang Plenum in 2005 had officially adopted Bhattarai’s line of peace and constitution. Bhattarai left the party a week after the constitution was promulgated in 2015.

After the adoption of the new charter, Bhattarai did not attend any celebration.

Departure unfortunate, says party

KATHMANDU: The UCPN (Maoist) has described Bhattarai’s decision to quit the party as “unfortunate”. Party spokesman Dina Nath Sharma said he hoped that Bhattarai would rethink his decision.

“After the promulgation of the new constitution, we are facing an unusual situation, which calls for the unity of all. Bhattarai’s sudden disassociation with the party has made us serious,” the party stated.

A Central Committee meeting of the party is scheduled to begin on Sunday. The CC was summoned at Bhattarai’s request.

“The agenda was to discuss Bhattarai’s demands,” said Sharma. (PR)

Published: 27-09-2015 08:20

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