A leadership deficit
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After a vertical split in the party, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) had compelling reasons to summon its plenum, mainly to give the message that the party is united, and that the split has not weakened it in any way.
UCPN-M chief Prachanda's fierce oratory hardly spelled any magic this time. Neither the contents of his 38-page political report dismissing the breakaway Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists — that it will dissolve and disappear in due course — nor his claim that the party under his leadership will lead the politics of change and transformation convinced anyone. It took just 24 hours for him to realise his diminished status within his own party, which will have a direct bearing on his acceptability and effectiveness in the fluid national politics.
Last week, a couple of hundred delegates — all of them combatants during the years of insurgency — staged a symbolic "dharna" outside the venue of the plenum. But the number of angry delegates inside was bigger and their fury was more intense and organised. They said they would not let the plenum proceed until financial bungling inside the party and cantonments where combatants were lodged for five years were probed and the guilty punished. Prachanda's efforts to silence them, by getting about a dozen senior combatants "to resign as commanders and deputy commanders" from their posts, was rejected by the delegates who said that the "Peoples Liberation Army" has long been dissolved, and that at the moment there was nobody working as commander and deputy commander.
Prachanda ultimately gave in, and formed two commissions, each headed by a standing committee member. Amik Serchan will head the investigation into financial irregularity in the party, and he is also under pressure to probe the properties of individual leaders. Another committee, headed by Posta Bahadur Bogati, will go into the alleged bungling of amounts advanced by the government to the combatants for five years. Prachanda had been approached first by the combatants 14 months ago with details about the bungling — that even absentee combatants' salaries and allowances were being gulped up by commanders, and that each month a certain amount was being deducted from their salaries on the high-command's instruction which went unaccounted for. But Prachanda ignored taking action, giving credence to suspicions that such bungling in a centralised party like the UCPN-M would not have been possible without his patronage, especially because all commanders were his loyalists.
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