Nepal’s former rebel Maoist movement recently held a public gathering for its biggest show of strength following the end of a decade long insurgency. Nearly 3,000 delegates attended the five-day convention, the first of its kind, since the toppling of the last Hindu monarchy in 2008.
The Maoist party is expected to back its commitment to democracy even though it has failed to deliver on its promise to hold elections last November. However, the party claims that it will not initiate a people’s war again. The convention focused on the preservation of achievements such as secularism, republicanism, and the implementation of a comprehensive constitution and federalism.
A decade has passed since the last convention was held in the district of Chitwan. Members at this year’s convention recalled the grim past when nearly 16,000 people died in the 1996-2006 conflict when the Maoists fought against the monarchy. The party now leads Nepal in a shaky caretaker coalition, which has had little power to make fundamental policy decisions since the parliament was dissolved last May. The convention is believed to consolidate the power of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the party’s chairperson.
In addition, the convention helped to ease tension between Dahal and his two opponents, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and Deputy Prime Minister, Narayan Kaji Shrestha. Although some quarters in Nepal’s politics think that Bhattarai may have used state machinery to gain power, it seems that the Maoist leader Prachanda is likely to maintain his hold in the party. Moreover, the convention promoted the Maoist’s claim for transforming the party into a mainstream democratic force rather than sticking to authoritarian attitudes.