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A revolution within

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

The seventh plenum of  UCPN-M which concluded in Kathmandu last week will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. But besides chair chucking, fist fighting and ugly factionalism, the meet had a historical significance in terms of the decisions it took.1861

The party will be holding its general convention after more than two decade in February next year. The party’s central bodies have been dissolved and replaced by interim committee that will hold convention. For the first time in history, the party which led a decade long war against the ‘feudal and corrupt’ state is on its way to correct democratic deficit and weed out corruption within its ranks.

On the closing session of the plenum , Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal formed a committee led by politburo member Posta Bahadur Bogati to look into the financial misappropriations in the party. After being criticised by the cadres and other members in the party for his  lifestyle, Dahal also announced that he would leave his luxurious house in Lazimpat, give up government SUV and donate his personal property to the party. The other top leaders  including the vice chairman Baburam Bhattarai and Narayan Kaji Shrestha also expressed similar commitments.

The small debate that stalled the plenum session last Wednesday turned violent after the members of youth wings and ex-combatants demanded greater financial transparency and accountability in the party. However, the call for strengthening internal democracy and establishing transparency and accountability is not new to the party. Last month’s split in the party may have had immediate political reasons, but Mohan Baidya was able to cash in on the seething anger within the party against establishment faction’s one up-manship and luxurious lifestyles of the leaders.

There is a general perception among the cadres, especially those from remote corners of the country that the ‘air-conditioned life’ of the top leaders in Kathmandu has  conditioned their way of thinking, that the leaders have abandoned the true purpose of getting to the power and made it into an end instead of means for larger good. As a result, a party which was built on rural mass base and that calls itself vanguard of the peasants and the working-class may slowly be eroding its legitimacy among the same.

The Maoist leadership has been rattled by the incidents of the plenum meeting. On the one hand, the ruling party is under fire from the opposition who have vowed to force it out of the power, while on the other it is recuperating from a vertical split last month. And the plenum was an opportunity for the party to send a positive message within and outside the party, instead, the vulnerability and ugly spat came out in the public.

The coming days will reveal whether decisions taken at the plenum was only a desperate attempt by the leadership to keep the party united amid tough political challenge, or a genuine commitment that will pave way for the UCPN-M to become truly a democratic mainstream party.

Anurag Acharya

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