National

Pressure mounts on ruling party to initiate action against its general secretary

  • Bishnu Poudel’s Baluwatar land deal has landed in controversy but leadership is maintaining silence
- TIKA R PRADHAN, Kathmandu

Apr 21, 2019-

Pressure is mounting on the ruling communist party from its own leaders to initiate action against Bishnu Poudel, general secretary of the party who has been embroiled in a controversy for buying a piece of land in Baluwatar in January 2005.

A report prepared by a probe panel led by former secretary Sharada Prasad Trital has revealed that Poudel’s land was among the 113 ropanis acquired by the government and later transferred in the names of individuals in an unscrupulous manner.

Though Poudel has issued two statements in a span of 10 days, saying that he bought the land “legally, the party has maintained an eerie silence over the matter, which party insiders say is “damaging the party’s image”.

Some Standing Committee members claimed that the party leadership’s silence emanates from the fear of a drastic power imbalance in the party as it struggles to conclude the unification process stuck in an intra-party feud.

According to them, Poudel maintains good relationship with both Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Chairmen KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal--as well as other influential leaders like Madhav Nepal and Bamdev Gautam.

“The party is going through a transition as the unification of the two parties is yet to be completed,” said a Standing Committee member from the former Maoist party, on condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the matter.

“The leaders fear a power imbalance if action is taken against Poudel.”

Oli’s CPN-UML and Dahal’s Maoist party announced their merger in May last year but the unification process is yet to be completed owing to a power struggle among the leaders.

 

When Poudel was elevated to the post of general secretary after the merger, many leaders were not happy because they considered him to be too junior to hold the position.

 

Now, the charges that Poudel had bought eight anna land from Uma Dhakal and Madhavi Subedi in one of the prime locations in the Capital at a dirt cheap price (a total of Rs 400,000) “illegally” has raised moral questions over him as well as his party.

 

Multiple leaders the Post spoke to said the issue has come to the fore at a time when the party Chair and Prime Minister Oli has made “rooting out corruption” his refrain. In almost every speech, Oli talks about how his government is against corruption and how he will not spare anyone found involved in corruption.

 

“Now a number of party leaders and lawmakers are preparing to demand Poudel’s resignation collectively,” said Metmani Chaudhary, a lawmaker from the ruling party. “Poudel should step down as general secretary and pave the way for a fair investigation. Or the party should initiate action against him.”

Minister for Communications and Information Technology Gokul Baskota, however, has stood in defence of Poudel.

Baskota, who is also the government spokesperson, claimed during a regular press briefing on  April 11 that Poudel was duped, that he was the victim as he had bought the controversial land unknowingly and that he deserved compensation. Nonetheless, his remarks had become an object of ridicule.

 

Before leaving for China, Poudel had issued a statement, saying that he had bought the land following the due legal process.

But he cut short his visit and returned home on Thursday, apparently after pressure from party leaders, and issued another statement, a longer one, on Friday, further clarifying that he had bought the land with the money he received after selling eight katthas of his wife’s land in Nawalparasi. He also said he would fully support the investigation of the government and abide by its findings.

 

“It’s only Poudel talking. The party is not,” said Jagannath Khatiwada, a central committee member. “The public is not convinced yet. The continued silence from the party will damage its, as well as Poudel’s, reputation further.”

 

In the meantime, calls are growing in the party that the leadership should call a meeting and discuss the matter seriously.

 

The party, according to leaders, should have called a meeting of the secretariat or the Standing Committee immediately after Poudel’s name surfaced in the controversial land grabbing issue and should have made its position clear.

 

Party Spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha told the Post that the party was yet to hold its secretariat meeting. “A meeting will soon take some decision on the controversy surrounding Poudel,” said Shrestha.

 

One of the biggest land scams had come to the fore after the probe report prepared by the Trital-led team detailed how government land was grabbed by individuals.

 

While Poudel is on the defensive, neither the party nor its leaders are speaking publicly, except one on Friday, who too made only an oblique reference.

“May the government be successful in taking action against those--whoever they are-- capturing land near the prime minister’s residence,” Bhim Rawal, a Standing Committee member, tweeted on Friday.

Published: 21-04-2019 06:58

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