Groping in the dark

Just before the holding of the Dashain tea party on Wednesday, the CPN-UML central committee (CC) meeting ended in two days. The CC focused on, among other things, the party’s upcoming eighth national convention, which is four months away, and the national cadres’ meeting, which is to take place in the capital today and tomorrow. The main news that the CC threw up was general secretary Jhala Nath Khanal’s abortive attempt to have the CC dissolved and a convention organising committee formed.

Except for this, the proposal Khanal put forward at the meeting was adopted with certain suggestions. Stung by the news carried in the media saying that he found himself in a minority in the CC, Khanal told journalists at the Congress Dashain tea party on Tuesday that the news was a ‘sponsored rumour’. What he said was that he had dropped the idea after some members stood against dissolution. But there was little chance of his idea being accepted; leaders like Madhav Kumar Nepal and K P Sharma Oli spoke against the idea, setting the tone for the CC generally.

Khanal’s influential comrades also read personal motive into his dissolution idea — a desire to strengthen his hand with a view to influencing the outcome of the convention by trying to bring into the proposed organising committee people ‘friendly’ to the general secretary. This accusation cannot be dismissed outright. However, irrespective of motive, those who were against the dissolution, and for formation of a management committee entrusted with the task of preparing for the convention, had a more powerful argument. Dissolution would have brought on unnecessary complications — for instance, the setting of acceptable criteria for nomination of members of the proposed organising committee. Questions of inclusiveness, merit, etc. would have cropped up. And within the short time on hands, it would have been difficult to find a generally acceptable way out. Furthermore, CC dissolution would have made the CPN-UML indecisive. And if the convention had to be postponed again for some reason, the party would be directionless. It is another matter that most CC members might not have wanted to lose their posts during the preparatory period, too.

The national convention would be required, therefore, to redefine the party’s basic ideological lines, such as ‘Bahudaliya Janabad’ (People’s Multiparty Democracy), as there has been sea change in the political scene of the country since the adoption of that line — the monarchy is gone, the parliamentary democracy as approved by the 1990 Jana Andolan may not be adopted (there are various models of multiparty democracy around the world), and there are several other issues on which the party will have to find its ideological moorings again. Indeed, this kind of problem faces the Nepali Congress and the CPN-Maoist too. All this has seriously disturbed the CPN-UML’s ideological orientation and its sense of direction. If the CC’s rejection of Khanal’s dissolution idea is any guide, it will be difficult for him to carry the party behind him at the national convention. Despite his heading the party several years more than two decades ago, Khanal’s base of cadre support is not considered broad enough.