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Fledgling Maoist Centre faces leadership battle

Pic. Party chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal addresses the first central meeting of the CPN (Maoist Centre) at Battisputali in Kathmandu on Sunday.

Kathmandu, May 23, 2016: Days after 10 Maoist factions merged to form the CPN (Maoist Centre), Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has proposed holding district-level conventions of the new force across the country within one month.

Presenting a roadmap for undertaking unification down to the local level at the party’s first gathering on Sunday, Dahal unveiled plans to mobilise the 599-member ad-hoc committee for the purpose. The Maoists are the third largest party in Parliament and hold the key to government.

Dahal also urged the party leaders to create momentum for the local conventions. The meeting, however, ended inconclusively citing the need of extra preparations on crucial issues including the political document and appointment of new office bearers.

“The meeting will continue on Monday after finalising work division and the organisational set-up,” said Dina Nath Sharma, spokesperson for the new party.

Leaders said that Dahal was struggling to finalise the leadership issue due to multiple aspirants for a single position. Plans are afoot to have five vice-chairpersons, one general secretary, two assistant general secretaries, three secretaries and a treasurer.

“This number of office bearers is likely to increase as leaders from all the constituent groups have been demanding symbolic representation. But the problem is mainly in the UCPN (Maoist) with multiple claimants for plump posts,” said a leader close to leader Ram Bahadur Thapa.

Dahal is said to be making efforts to accommodate his close aides including Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Barsha Man Pun, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi and Janardan Sharma in key positions. There are also disputes over seniority among some leaders appointed to the same posts.

CPN (Maoist Centre) brought together 10 groups of former rebels including some members of the Baburam Bhattarai-led Naya Shakti and the Netra Bikram Chand-led CPN-Maoist, which are still separate entities. Sources said that every leader of the group has been promised at least a Politburo seat. While Dahal is under pressure to fill leadership positions at the earliest, he is also considering the alternative of buying more time to resolve the dispute.

The second option under consideration is to keep the leadership centralised in Dahal until the general convention with a small team of office bearers, while setting up the Politburo representing all the factions.

While Thapa, who is almost set to become the general secretary, is positive about the alternative, his close aides oppose the idea.