Interview | ‘We have learned lessons from the past. Party is ready for soul-searching’: Dev Gurung, leader of Maoist Center

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 4 min.

Though the CPN (Maoist Center)’s General Convention has come to an end, the question of who will become the General Secretary of the party is yet to settle. Both Barshaman Pun and Janardhan Sharma have staked claims on the position leading to the complication in selecting office bearers in consensus. Dev Gurung, another senior leader, is also apparently in the race. He mentions that chair Prachanda has asked him to stand ready to assure the post. Besides, questions have been raised about the erosion of values and ideology within the party. In this context, Nepal Live Today caught up with Gurung to discuss aspects related to the General Convention, internal conflict and other issues.

To begin with, why did the party change the National Conference into a General Convention overnight?

Our party had the deadline to conduct the General Convention by 2024. But party’s strategy and action plan had to be enriched and modified along with new visions before that.

Next, the party committee from the lower to upper level remained passive. So, there was the need to restructure the party committees. National Conference was planned to decide action plan and strategies until the General Convention. In the meantime, it seemed that all the necessary procedures to hold the Convention had been complete. That’s why we decided to change the National Conference into the General Convention.

Your party in principle stands against monopoly and capitalism. But the voices have been raised in the party that prominent leaders themselves have been promoting crony capitalism. Issues of collusion with middlemen, contractors and brokers are often raised.

The party has made a serious reflection on this matter. We must admit that many anomalies were seen at the party. Problems of economic opaqueness appeared. A situation was created that the party may turn into a person-centric rather than a class-centric formation. The main challenge of today is to fight against such anomalies. In principle, we stand firm but we have not been able to implement that principle in practice. This must change. The General Convention has taken this need into account.

Party chair Prachanda had once said that he feels like dissolving the Maoist party. Does not such statement reflect on the failure of the party to chart a clear roadmap? 

That statement was just a symbolic statement. We need to understand who that statement was meant for. Like I said, keeping self-interest in the center, factionalization, taking commissions, collusion with brokers and misusing party’s name among others have become the norms in the party. If we are to move forward, we must change these trends for once and all. Otherwise, we will be no different from other parties. Chair Prachanda had made such remarks symbolically against the negative trends in the party. He had not meant it for dissolving the party in a real sense. It was actually an appeal for reforms inside the party. 

Prominent leaders such as Mohan Vaidya, Baburam Bhattarai, Ram Bahadur Thapa and Netra Bikram Chanda are no more with the Maoist Center. Does not this indicate that Maoist Center is facing a serious existential problem?

There are two sides to your question. Baburam Bhattarai decided to give up Marxism, Leninism, Maoism as philosophies as a whole and leave the communist movement as well. In his case, the fundamental class perspective has differed. A leader can voluntarily enter and leave the communist movement. It’s up to him or her.

As regards Mohan Vaidya and others, we have looked into the matter seriously. We may have failed to live up to the spirit of people’s movement after we entered into the peace process. That led to suspicions and disillusionment in the party. A situation of confusion was created, which led to the division of the party. We should not allow a similar situation to arise again.

Two lines struggle should continue in the communist movement. We have learned lessons from previous divisions. Party is ready for soul-searching. We can unify communists in the country if we can self-reflect and be ready to correct the mistakes of the past.

The central committee is already formed, but the office-bearers are yet to be selected. Which position are you looking for? 

I haven’t claimed any position because the communist party is an institution where one is supposed to do their tasks voluntarily.  Although I will not hold any position, I will contribute to this party as much as I can.  To contribute to the party, one need not be in any position.  I believe in working according to the roles and responsibilities assigned to me by the party committee.    

During the drafting of the party statute, a question of whether to go for multiple-position or single position had been discussed in the party but as the party was practicing multiple-post system from earlier, everyone thought of not adopting the new system.  The party’s chairman also did homework on multiple-post and he found no serious issue in any of the positions except for the general secretary. 

But the party members haven’t collectively agreed on it. Barshaman Pun and Janardan Sharma seem to be particularly reluctant. Both of them have claimed the post of general secretary. They are still not ready for consensus. 

In this context, it is also necessary to give the message that the party is a strong united whole. Holding an election just for one position would not be an appropriate move. It will create factions from the top to the grassroots level. There is no alternative to consensus. 

In our recent conversation, Prachanda told me that he had tried his best for consensus but in vain. As a result, there is only one possible way for negotiation. The senior leaders should take responsibility for the general secretary, he said.  “Are you ready to do so?” Prachanda asked me.  I said that it is up to him. If you think my involvement as a general secretary in the party will improve the party’s status, then I can’t deny your call, I said. 

Secondly, holding the election for one position will not send a good message among the cadres.  There has been a lot of discussion on documents. There was a consensus on the statute.  The selection of the central committee was formed unanimously. People and cadres will ask while all other positions are formed through consensus why has not there been consensus for the post of General Secretary? And it will send a negative message.  If the chairman creates a ground for consensus and asks me to come around it, I will have no issue.