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Last Updated: Friday, 6 May, 2005, 11:05 GMT 12:05 UK
Nepal's Maoist leadership divisions
Navin Singh Khadka
BBC Nepali Service

Senior Maoist Baburam Bhattarai
Baburam Bhattarai is reported to have been suspended
It was widely perceived to be government propaganda. But now rumours of divisions within Nepal's Maoist rebel movement have more than a whiff of truth.

A power struggle between Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Chairman Prachanda and an influential leader of the party, Baburam Bhattarai, has been hidden from the Maoist rank and file for many months but is now very much in the open.

Analysts say the rift could jeopardise what the rebels call the "people's war", which has claimed 11,000 lives in the last 10 years.

It seems that for some time no one but the two rebel leaders themselves realised the full extent of their bitter dogfight.

List of accusations

Now it seems clear that the Maoist movement is not just fighting for the downfall of the monarchy, it is also fighting itself in relation to its future direction.

Statement condemning Baburam Bhattarai released by Prachanda
Bhattarai's arguments have proved that he is not concerned about the party and the revolution, all he cares about is his personal position
Statement issued by Prachanda

The lists of accusations Prachanda and Bhattarai have against each other are long and wordy, in true Maoist tradition.

But amid the claims and counter-claims, there is a common bottom line. Each has accused the other of being power-hungry.

In a symbolic challenge to the leadership, Bhattarai has questioned the correctness of Prachanda's photo being put together with other, better-known international communist stalwarts, including Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.

"What should we make out of it when Comrade Prachanda has no reservation at such displays of his photograph during programmes of the party?" he asked in a letter to the Maoists' central office.

'Personal position'

The letter also appeared in Kathmandu-based local media.

Making his reservations even clearer, Bhattarai said that he had already registered what he called "a note of dissent" challenging the decision of the party's central committee to impose its leadership on both the Maoist military and political wings.

"I disagree with the concept of [Prachanda's] single leadership because it is against what was decided by our party earlier," he wrote.

Soldiers in Kathmandu
The conflict has cost 11,000 lives so far, the army says

Prachanda shot back with allegations of equal gusto.

"Bhattarai's arguments have proved that he is not concerned about the party and the revolution. All he cares about is his personal position," the Maoist chairman said in a press statement last month.

"When he is in power, everything is fine. But, when his position becomes unstable, he describes all the developments in the party as regression."

Prachanda's remarks came a few days after Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara indirectly admitted in an interview with the BBC Nepali service that action had been taken against Bhattarai.

He also acknowledged that Bhattarai had indeed submitted a 13-point list of complaints to the party's central committee.

'Class enemies'

"Such actions are quite common in the party. We all undergo such processes for the betterment of our revolution," he said.

There has been no word from the Maoists on reports that Bhattarai had been suspended from his last position as the party's revolutionary council co-ordinator.

Both men acknowledge that their argument plays into the hands of those they refer to as "class enemies".

But their mutual animosity now appears so entrenched that it has become personal, superseding everything else.

Nepal Maoist rally
Both men are said to have supporters within Maoist ranks

Both have accused each other of promoting "groupism" and experts say both have their own line of supporters.

"If this difference in the party leadership persists, it will certainly hamper the war they are waging," said Shyam Shrestha, editor the pro-left magazine Mulyankan.

"Since the Maoist leadership has shown that it cannot cope even with its internal differences, questions can be raised as to how they would work with other parliamentary forces."

This is not the first time the Maoist leadership have had a personality clash, though.

In his statement, Prachanda said: "The issue of centralisation always makes Bhattarai lose his cool. This has been proved ever since the pre-people's war period."

The extent to which the Maoist leaders seem willing to wash their dirty linen in public is, however, something new.

"This time they are outdoing each other in defaming each other in public," says Sudhir Sharma, editor of Nepal Magazine, which published Bhattarai's notes of dissent.

Whether or not the rebel leaders can sort out their differences for the time being remains unclear.

But for now their public wrangling has been a heaven-sent boost for the government and its counter-insurgency operation.

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