Two to tango
- Dahal—Bhattarai split will have serious consequences, especially on constitution
Aug 10, 2014-
It has long been known that UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and the party’s senior leader Baburam Bhattarai have had a difficult relationship. Even through the years of conflict, there were tensions between the two. These were overcome on various occasions, primarily because each realised that the other played crucial roles within the party, and that their movement would suffer if either was no longer around. Since the second Constituent Assembly (CA) election, this tumultuous relation has soured to an even greater extent. In fact, it appears that their relationship at the current time is the worst it has been since early 2005. At that time, Chairman Dahal had placed Bhattarai under military detention. This time, Dahal has suspended two of Bhattarai’s key loyalists from the central committee. In 2005, Bhattarai continued to insist that he would remain in the party regardless of the way he was treated by his colleagues. This time, however, he seems to have become fed up and there is talk of a potential split in the party. Members of both the Dahal and Bhattarai factions now claim that a split has become a strong possibility and even welcome, given ‘irreconcilable differences’.
It seems that both these leaders are being driven more by their passions than reason. The costs of a second split within the UCPN (Maoist) would have extremely damaging consequences for the party and the broader political process. The consequences for the party are plain to see. It is clear that the previous party split in 2012 caused major problems. It was one of the main reasons why the UCPN (Maoist) performed so poorly in the CA election. The damage to Dahal will be even greater if the Bhattarai faction walks out. This may not be entirely evident at the moment. Some in the Dahal faction think that Bhattarai has outlived his utility and become more of a liability. But there is no one in the party who has a deeper grasp of policy than Bhattarai and the party will suffer greatly from his absence. Bhattarai for his part should do the utmost to reach out to the party boss, who believes that his former deputy has become politically unstable since the CA election defeat.
Even more worrying is the possible impact of such a split on the constitution-drafting process. Bhattarai is the chair of the Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee, the most important committee in the CA. The work of the entire committee will be thrown into disarray if Bhattarai leaves the party. Further, Bhattarai’s departure will mean that Dahal will forge an even stronger bond with Mohan Baidya on the extreme left. This alliance will very likely adopt a radical position and disrupt constitution drafting. This could lead the country into further years of instability. It is necessary to prevent such a situation. Dahal and Bhattarai should both realise that it is not in their interests to split the party at the current juncture. They should stay put, at least until the constitution is done.
Published: 11-08-2014 09:05