Nepal Maoists: As peace moves sputter, revolutionaries press key issues

Internecine war: Baidya tries to corral Maoist chief Dahal

KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI

KATHMANDU, MAY 24 –
Amid intense negotiations between Nepali Congress and the Maoists, the internal party manoeuvrings of the Maoist hardliners is likely to affect their party’s position at the negotiating table. The UCPN (Maoist) faction led by Vice Chairman Mohan Baidya has begun a signature drive to put pressure on Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to stop him from conceding further ground to other parties on integration and other contentious issues in the new constitution.

Leaders close to Baidya say that they are prepared to cross the floor if the CA extension comes at ‘too high a cost’. “If Dahal offers to agree to NC’s conditions on integration to extend the CA, we will cross the floor and ultimately quit the party,” threatened a leader close to Baidya. Even leaders close to Dahal and Vice Chairman Baburam Bhattarai camps admit that Baidya has the support of over 85 lawmakers and a strong position within the PLA. The hardliners accuse Dahal of “selling out” and have objected to the approach on peace and constitution taken by Dahal. While Bhattarai and Dahal are busy negotiating with other parties, the hardliners are holding meetings of their cadres and rallying them against Dahal’s position. “For now, the signature campaign is aimed at demonstrating our strength in the CA and PLA,  but if he continuously ignores our concerns we will be compelled to take extreme steps, including leaving the party,” said a leader in the Baidya camp.

The hardline faction also wants see the continuity of the Khanal government, while Dahal has said he is open to an alternative if there is a broad agreement on power-sharing and other issues. The hardliners’ grouse against the party establishment is not new. During the party plenum last November, Baidya had threatened to quit the party if Dahal failed to mend his working style. The Baidya faction had registered a note of dissent when the party’s Central Committee passed the line of peace and constitution and when the Standing Committee agreed on the NA proposal on integration.