Deepening the crisis in Nepal over the newly promulgated Constitution, senior Maoist leader and former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai resigned Saturday from the Maoist party he founded after voicing concern over the Madhesis “being denied a say” in the very Constitution he had endorsed a week ago.
Bhattarai also quit his seat in parliament. He said he was resigning from the primary membership of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists and all responsibilities he had been entrusted.
Speaking to reporters, Bhattarai said he had not yet thought of his political course. But there were enough indications that he would be working to create a new force, and would be part of the movement that Madhes-centric parties have launched for enhanced representation of the region in parliament and “scientific and just” formation of provinces.
Some of the Madhes groups have openly asked Bhattarai to resign from the Maoist party and lead their movement.
He chose to quit the party on the eve of a crucial meeting of the party central committee scheduled for Sunday. Considered No. 2 in the party, Bhattarai informed Maoist chief Pushpa Kumar Dahal aka Prachanda about his decision. He also handed his resignation to the Speaker’s office before making the announcement.
Bhattarai commands support of at least a dozen of the 85 Maoist members in parliament and they are all expected to follow him soon, reducing the influence of the party in general, and Dahal in particular.
Chairman of the constituent assembly committee for dialogue and consensus building, he had stayed away from the celebrations after the promulgation of the Constitution. He voiced concern over the Madhesis “being denied their say”.
Bhattarai was head of the ‘People’s Government’ during the decade-long Maoist insurgency that began in 1996. He played a key role in joining the peace process under Indian mediation in early 2006. He has had almost a three-decade long association with Prachanda. Bhattarai was the public face of the Maoist movement despite Dahal being its chairman and supreme commander.
He became Prime Minister for 19 months — August 2011 to March 2013 — and quit after the first constituent assembly failed to deliver the Constitution within the promised timeframe, paving the way for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to take over as head of the elected government.