Baburam At The Crossroads Too Early To Dismiss Him: Mukti Rijal

Dr. Baburam Bhattarai quit the UCPN-Maoist, severing all links with the party, last month. His decision has surprised some and confounded many. Why did he severe ties with Prachanda politically and choose to go alone in his oft repeated mission to create a new political force (Naya shakti)? Did he consult with his closer aides and confidantes before deciding to execute the new move?  It seems that some of his senior colleagues - who survived as leaders and made a political career under his political guidance and mentoring, and lent all out support to him - seem not very happy with his step at a time when the country has just got a new constitution and a new context has dawned in the country. New precedentAny way, he set a new precedent by quitting the party alone. Had he chosen to quit en masse, he would have been able to take with him a sizeable following from the UCPN-Maoist. It was alleged that he had created parallel structures within the party in defiance of the party discipline and norms during the previous years. These parallel structures would have sided with him had he abandoned the party with a deliberate plan.  His second in command, Top Bahadur Raymajhi, and political stalwarts like Devendra Poudel, among others, who nurtured their career under his patronage, have not been sliced off the party. Rayamajhi has been rewarded with the post of deputy prime minister in the post-constitution cabinet, which does indicate that he has switched his allegiance to Prachanda by disassociating himself from Baburam. However, time will tell if it was just a tactical and seasonal alliance with Prachanda and switches back to Baburam once he sees the political fortune of Baburam reviving and rising through his new political force.  Needless to say, many well wishers and adherents of Baburam harbour substantial reservation over his move. Their grudges and grievances pertain to the fact that he took the decision at the wrong time since he should have taken all the credit for coordinating and facilitating the process of arriving at a consensus among the major political forces on several contentious political and constitutional issues, making the birth of the new constitution possible.  However, Prachanda carefully seized the lead while Bhattarai, who had worked hard with all sincerity to produce the constitution, took the back seat. Though the Madhesis, Tharus and other groups have expressed their disenchantment with the new constitution, especially referring to the case of province delineation, the charter has been largely welcomed by the national and international communities for the fact that it has ended the protracted and long drawn out political transition that has been dragging for years and years.  It has also incorporated most of the elements of power sharing, inclusion and reorganisation of the state. Prachanda has gained new political height in the new dispensation with key ministries like Home, Education and Water Resources and Energy, among others, at his disposal whereas Bhattarai has been edged out of the role that he shared with Prachanda.  Undoubtedly Dr. Bhattarai has been held in much greater esteem and respect, especially due to his liberal and moderate image he has been able to cultivate and project among the national intelligentsia, business community and civil society. His performance was rated relatively high and better when he held ministerial portfolios and ran the government as prime minister of the country.  The greater recognition and adulation he was able to secure and the unmatched popularity he enjoyed even at the time when his decisions and actions were thought to be unpopular and unilateral should have impelled Bhattarai to overrate and arrogate himself to a new height of ambition and confidence. He must have calculated that he would be able to sway the political winds in favour of the new political force that he has been talking of for some time now.  Besides, he was also bent on capitalising on the growing disenchantment against the new constitution to build and gather political steam to bolster his new political move. Contrary to his calculation, his travel to Janakpur to participate in a mass rally immediately after his resignation backfired on him so badly that he earned the disrepute of being guided by the southern neighbour.

Several comments and views have been aired, and the national media is awash with reflections on the political fate and future of Baburam Bhattarai. Some opinions have lauded Baburam for his aversion to and renunciation of the dirty and manipulative political tricks and his dedication to cleanse the politics off the rust. Others shave written an epitaph on the political future of Baburam and advised him to take up teaching as a career in university.  Pious intentionWhen he quit both the party and the parliament, he had said that he would stay independent as an ordinary citizen, hold broad-based consultations and decide about his next move. At a time when politics has become murkier, and politicians have become very selfish and greedy, Baburam’s pious intention to reform the politics and set a new history should be hailed. At least some politician with clean credentials and stature has summoned the boldness and courage to fight for value-based politics for the sole purpose of ushering in prosperity and welfare of the country. It is too early to dismiss his move and initiative as he is committed to learning from the past and setting the course for the future.

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