Nepal’s failed revolutionary prime ministers: Can they rise from the ashes?
Revolutions do not necessarily succeed. Nepal’s Maoist rebellion and the bloody civil war (1996-2006) produced two prime ministers: Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, but both stare at the abyss of failure. They were the beacon of revolution and change—assuring naïve Nepalis of the utopian promised land. The rhetoric of PM Dahal when he was the prime minister of Nepal in 2008 was bold and controversial. Often known by his nom de gueree ‘Prachanda’ or fearless, he seems to have lost that spark in 2016-17. Whereas, Dr. Bhattarai is struggling to garner financial support for his newly established Naya Party. If liberals and capitalists would take reference of Marxism and Leftist parties’ failure, then with no doubt it would be the CPN-Maoist party of Nepal.
The recent visit to China by PM Dahal failed to reap any deal with China. Analysts back home foresaw OBOR agreement falling apart. The sudden change in PM Dahal’s indifferent gesture towards Chinese President Xi Jinping is obvious since he now looks to Delhi with a neutral attitude. The intellectual community in mainstream media is divided over One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR) and mending the strained relationship with India. It is a fact that Nepalis in large remain suspicious of India’s activities whereas China comes out as a neighbor who rarely interferes in the country’s internal matters. However, things have changed and the current PM is in dilemma and under severe pressure to maintain a cordial balance between the two neighbors who see themselves as opponents. Former K.P. Oli had pointed out the fact that the current prime minister had come to the power due to India’s backing, however, as his nine-month tenure comes to an end PM Dahal looks stressed and under great pressure to make his next movie. He is in no mood to retire. Deuba, the leader of Nepali Congress, is pressing the prime minister to hold polls and pave the way for him to become the next prime minister.
PM Dahal’s failure is not only limited to his unstable decision-making behavior but he no longer holds the same blazing torch he had back in 2008. The local poll is scheduled to be held on May 14 after a span of nineteen years and checking the pulse of the public it is certain that UML’s K.P. Oli would come out as victorious. This is where Madhesi Morcha is concerned since they are well-aware that UML will not accept the constitution amendment proposal at any cost. That’s the reason they are pressing hard to have the constitution amended before the local polls. It is interesting to note that they have no trust in Nepali Congress too as Deuba was the one to push PM Dahal for polls. PM Dahal has failed to bridge the gap between the Madheshi Morcha and the incumbent government. His unstable rhetoric can be determined by the statement he made yesterday that Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) stands against India’s illegal occupation of Nepal’s territory and the killing of innocent citizens by the Seema Sasasthra Bal (SSB). This manifesto by his party has surprised many but few have termed it as an electoral strategy to win votes in the upcoming polls. PM Dahal knows his rule is coming to an end but is no mood to surrender so easily. He even went to the extent of saying that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in Nepal were meager foreign agents.
Former prime minister Dr. Babubram Bhattarai of late seems lost. He publicly announced that Naya Shakti (New power) party is out of funds and hopes that Nepali people would support the party to contest the polls. A few days back Dr. Bhattarai and his cadres protested the Election Commission of Nepal regarding the rejection of his party’s symbol (eye). A lot of commentators in Nepal are pointing out that Dr. Bhattarai had orchestrated the bloody civil war only for his political career and not for change. The fact that he was highly active in designing the 2015 constitution and then rejecting it later, appealing Madheshi parties for a joint movement is bizarre and contradictory. His wife, Hisila Yami, during the party’s skirmish with the police in Kathmandu, uttered, “Scrap this country, Scrap Nepal.” This slogan of hers outraged a lot of people but she did apologize later stating Nepali is not her mother tongue. I had heard her speech in English at the last Chinese conference and to me personally, she spoke well. The latest saga of Naya Shakti Party and Dr. Bhattarai’s fall from grace is evident. He too had made a comment in the past that Nepal should merge with India but was quick to rectify it by saying he was talking about Nepal’s economic ties with the southern neighbor and China. On another note, Naya Shakti party was formed in 2016 but like several other smaller parties it unlikely it will win any significant votes in the upcoming polls. Dr. Bhattarai’s exit from the then CPN-M party in 2015 after the promulgation of constitution shocked a bunch but many now have been questioning his true intention towards Nepali people and the nation per se. Nepali people are confused whether he is driven by an ideological factor or he is hell-bent to destabilize the country like before. He failed to hold local polls, formulate the constitution, and end the political deadlock when he was the prime minister from 2011-2013. Now he has been reduced to a leader holding the key to a minor power.
Nepal’s two revolutionary prime ministers’ legacy might be forgotten too soon. Per Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs Bimalendra Nidhi, PM Dahal is set to step down in coming weeks and make way for Sher Bahadur Deuba to become the next prime minister on Nepali New year on April 14. He affirmed that a written agreement between Nepali Congress and CPN-M had gone through about the deal. PM Dahal had promised to hand over the baton of prime minister to Deuba before or after the polls nine months ago. It is suddenly becoming a reality and the two revolutionary prime ministers are heading the way to becoming unstructured leaders on whom the capitalists, rightist, and the liberals might have the last laugh.
Arun Budhathoki is a Senior Correspondent with Anna Note. He tweets at @arunbudhathoki.