Naya Shakti: Another Gimmick Of Bhattarai?:Ritu Raj Subedi
Naya Shakti (new force), a new political party composed of ‘tested and retired’ individuals, has lately become a staple diet of media and political gossips. Naya Shakti is a culmination of Dr Baburam Bhattarai’s volte-face that he staged immediately after the nation got the historic constitution. In a rather mysterious move, Bhattarai resigned from the post of lawmaker and as a top UCPN-Maoist leader. His former boss Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' termed Bhattarai’s self-willed departure as ‘designed.’ Bhattarai flipped his lid over Prachanda’s corrosive comments. He did not only launch scandalous attack on Prachanda but also upped his divisive and radical rhetoric to create a new space for himself in the national politics. He went on to stoke Madhes agitation before doing a hatchet job on the new constitution considered to be the most inclusive and democratic in the region. Bhattarai, who slew the first Constituent Assembly with no feeling of repentance later, posed as a big stumbling block to the promulgation of the new charter till the last moment. He was the head of the Political/Constitutional Consensus and Dialogue Committee under the CA. It was given the crucial role to sort out the contentious issues of the statute. He finagled the committee to play gooseberry against the democratic process of constitution writing. When it was finally issued to the jubilation of masses, he abruptly severed ties from the elected body and described the new statute as stillbirth. Those, who have jumped to rally behind Bhattarai’s Naya Shakti, must face a moral question before they get down to their business. Bhattarai had called the constitution ‘a sick/dead baby’. Can they also agree on his disparaging qualifier of the statute, which contains multitude of progressive provisions?
Class Consciousness Missing
With the promulgation of the main law of land, the Madhes-based parties intensified their protests from the border points and no-man’s land. And the southern neighbour moved to impose blockade on its small neighbour for refusing to suck up to it while framing the statute. And Bhattarai immediately climbed on the bandwagon. He fuelled the Madhesi agitation to squeeze political benefits. He made a whirlwind tour in Terai amidst the raging unrest. But, to his despair, the Madhesi parties pooh-poohed him and upset his apple cart. Bhattarai, who has a good rapport with the Indian establishment, could act as mediator between the government, Madhesi parties and India instead of ravelling the situation. He could use his political capital to diffuse the bilateral tension. He had a chance to falsify the accusation that he is a blue-eyed-boy of South Block. But, he preferred to flirt with the disruptive ethnic politics that is dangerous for the nation. He became the first leader to give recognition to a secessionist Madhesi activist, CK Raut. In a capacity of the head of CA committee, Bhattarai solicited Raut’s views on the statute by turning a blind eye to his treasonous activities he has been carrying out in the veil of Madhes movement. Bhattarai’s modus operandi cheesed off many independent observers. Bhattarai spent most of his time in communist movement but when it comes to analysing the Nepali society and solving its problems, he resorts to primordial ethnic politics and sentiments, not the Marxist approach. Class consciousness is nowhere to be seen in his latest political discourse. It seems that he had just dabbled with the communist movement to wreck havoc on the countless innocent lives and national property worth of billions of rupees.
Bhattarai’s exit from the UCPN-Maoist and creation of the Naya Shakti is one of the bizarre political developments. His disassociation from the party was understandable. He was tired of playing second fiddle to Prachanda, who has been holding the whip hand over the party. This would hardly allow him to gratify his intellectual hubris in the party. Bhattarai also suffered from a sense of illusion. He had always to be a subsidiary figure within the party but outside it he enjoyed considerable amount of media attention and sweet talk from the chattering classes. He did not want to reel from this paradox any longer. So, after it became clear that Prachanda is not going to pass the baton to him, he bade the party adieu. But, it will be difficult for him to justify his divorce from Maoist movement. He is one of the architects of the ruthless insurgency that turned the Nepalese society upside down for years. He had instigated many youths into joining and sacrificing their lives for the violent insurgency. Many of them have been now disenchanted with their leaders and left in the lurch. How will Bhattarai muster his moral guts to convince these unfortunate lots about his desertion? He, however, cannot break with the past legally. The process for ensuring transitional justice is still underway. He can be held accountable for possible rights violation and murder cases that took place under his instruction during the conflict.
Interestingly, Naya Shakti has become a ragtag band of the incompatible people. The disclosure of the members of its ad hoc body gives an impression that it is marriage of inconvenience. A phalanx of apolitical guys is juxtaposed with the crowd of disaffected Maoist cadres. A number of retired secretaries joined Bhattarai to try their luck. Since they had already spent their prime youth and energy in bureaucracy, how can they contribute to create a new power? Former finance secretary Rameshwor Khanal, a staunch advocate of neoliberal economic policy, argues that Bhattarai has completely shaken off the hangover of past Maoist movement, and has not mentioned even a word ‘Marxism’ in its first ever released document. Khanal says he feels comfortable to be the part of Naya Shakti as it is free of communist ideology. It is quite interesting to see how former hardcore Maoists cohabite with the market fundamentalist in the new party.
However, there is good news for the aficionados of Naya Shakti. Bhattarai is often accused of lacking a sense of humour but he has succeeded to rope famous actress Karishma Manandhar into Naya Shakti. The presence of bootylicious babe from the tinsel town has added glamour to the organisation in the making. She has grabbed much of media attention, overshadowing madam Hisila Yami. She may be superannuated in the film industry but can be the traction for the new party. As a former prime minister, Bhattarai is already a tested politician so it will not be wise to expect him to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Nonetheless, it will be amusing to watch how he will shepherd a motley group of people. No doubt, Naya Shakti will be Bhattarai’s one-man show. But, this does not mean he leads the group of gullible guys down the garden path just to fulfil his political ambition.