MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
About 7,000 cadres thronged Palungtar for the sixth extended plenum of the UCPN (Maoist) to hear Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal back a 'people's revolt' as the party line. But state council members, ex-combatants and cadres find themselves divided as they discuss the papers presented by Dahal and vice chairmen Mohan Baidya and Baburam Bhattarai. A three-way split is clear to see.
Although the plenum meant to reach out to grassroots cadres, they were prohibited from participating in the discussions, and will go home with little more than the knowledge of supporting one of three factions. Some members boycotted the meetings, saying it should not have been used as a forum to gauge the influence of leaders over the state councils.
Each state council is now split into three factions, each of which defends its own leader and attacks the others. Bhattarai supporter and Tharuhat State Council representative Lila Bhandari said, "In the nine months of the Maoist government, Chaiman Dahal met the Indian ambassador 171 times, but Bhattarai met him only 51 times. Who's for India?"
Even Dahal's supposed hold over the PLA was far from complete. The 1,500 ex-combatants attending the plenum formed groups in support of Dahal, Baidya and Bhattarai, and insisted on speaking for all three leaders in direct contravention of the chairman's directives.
According to politburo member Ram Karki, who also favours Bhattarai, leadership has been lacking. "This plenum failed to clear away the illusion that Maoists are just paying lip service to peace," he said. Any agreements that Dahal signs on peace and democracy will be unconvincing given his support of Baidya's 'people's revolt'. If Dahal had really been committed to peace, the constitution and democracy, observers say, he would have decided in favour of a pro-people constitution rather than a revolt, as decided at Kharipati.
Dahal supporter Shiv Dangi of Kochila State Council is confident that the constitution will not be written. He says, "The constitution will be written only as desired by the Maoists or it will never be written at all. This is how the cadres and the leaders have understood it." Bhattarai supporter Khim Lal Devkota laments that those for the constitution and peace are labelled rightist and subservient to India, adding, "This plenum should decide clearly whether the constitution should be written or not."