Bhattarai ‘gives up’ Maoist veep post

KATHMANDU, JUN 30 –

In an unexpected turn of events, UCPN (Maoist) Vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai on Saturday ‘gave up’ his post in what he said to ‘build a culture of sacrifice inside the party and promote a new generation.’

The Maoist second-in-command made such unanticipated announcement at party’s ongoing Central Committee (CC), which is struggling to make key appointments in various committees for a week. Despite stepping down from the post, the former prime minister said that he would continue to engage in the party and its activities.

“I have not resigned from the party but only from the position of vice-chairman to begin the process of leadership handover to the new generation,” a leader quoted Bhattarai as saying in the meeting. There was no pressure on him, nor did he consult with us which startled everyone, leaders close to Bhattarai said.

The announcement follows intra-party bickering and charges against Bhattarai of promoting factional politics by CC members and rejection of a proposal prepared by top leaders concerning the key appointments in the party’s office bearers, Standing Committee, Politburo and expanding the current 98-member CC.

However, Bhattarai’s announcement is not the manifestation of his dispute or displeasure with party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the leaders said.

They maintain that the announcement does not mean that he resigned from the party but rather the move is intended at sending out a message to certain leaders nurturing higher ambition that the post is not a big thing, leaders said.

“He (Bhattarai) just declared not to remain in the post of vice-chairman underscoring that everyone should be ready for sacrifice to unite the party,” Kumar Poudel, a leader close to Bhattarai, told the Post.

During the CC meeting, top leaders including Bhattarai and Dahal faced criticism for preparing an appointment plan on the basis of nepotism and favouritism. For the first time in the party’s 35-year history, over 95 percent of the CC members opposed the appointment proposal prepared by top leaders, apparently prompting Bhattarai to step down from the post.

“Some leaders used harsh words against Bhattarai, charging him of promoting his wife and other leaders,” said Haribol Gajurel, a leader close to Dahal. “When the CC meet began, he suddenly took out a paper and made the announcement, catching everyone unawares. As he did not consult with the party chief one can guess there’s something hidden in this case.”

However, leaders close to Dahal termed Bhattarai’s move “a publicity stunt” aimed at pacifying the growing dissatisfaction in the party over the working style of its leadership. They maintain that Bhattarai’s announcement does not mean that he is genuinely leaving his post but it is an attempt to give the message that leaders are not greedy of power and party will not accept his decision.

On Thursday, the top leaders had agreed to appoint four secretaries without changing the incumbent General Secretary Post Bahadur Bogati.

The CC members were miffed at a proposal of top three leaders to elevate the leaders close to them instead of selecting candidates on the basis of their contribution to the party.

Their choice of names for standing committee, politburo and central committee also drew widespread criticism.

Meanwhile, CPN-UML defector Ram Chandra Jha has hinted at leaving the UCPN (Maoist) unless he is elevated to the post of secretary as promised by the party chairman. Even Maoist Madhesi leaders are pressing Dahal not to bring Jha into the party’s apex body arguing that those who have been with the party for long should get priority over new comers.

Appointments in the party’s various committees have been pending since the party’s seventh General Convention in February.

“This is a serious issue inside the party with hundreds of leaders that fought the 10-year insurgency now eyeing the post,” said Sapkota.- Ekantipur