Baburam Bhattarai has never been consistent in his political ideology and party affiliation, but his nearly 19 year-long association with the Maoist Organisation including the bloody war it waged against the state for a decade since 1996 gave him the prominence which had earlier eluded him.
In 2006, Bhattarai was the agenda setter for a ‘new Nepal’ that he insisted should be a Republic, and ‘if necessary we must join hands with the external forces’, and he succeeded in roping in India and other western democracies. Internally, it was a defeat for party chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal who favoured an alliance with the ‘nationalist force (read monarchy) to keep away the hegemonic and imperialistic forces (read India and the US).” But the Bhattarai line prevailed, and the non-Maoist parties that had become the target of the insurgents joined hands together against the monarchy. Ideologically, Maoists scaled down the war targeting the ‘feudal institution’ joining hands with the external ‘enemies’.
Bhattarai, the ideologue, however, never felt comfortable with Dahal, but it was an alliance of convenience and compulsion. Dahal had hold over the organisation including the combatants, and Bhattarai was an ideologue as well as the most known public face, at home and in the international arena. But Bhattarai quit the party in October along with the membership of Parliament, and seven months later, announced the ‘Naya Shakti Nepal’ Party’ Sunday, announcing that he would be the largest party when the country goes to the poll for Parliament in December 2018.
He gave a message that his having to stain his hands with the blood of ‘class enemies’ during the insurgency was not something he felt comfortable with. He was back with a pro-democracy cap – something he used to don, prior to joining the Maoist war, and declared ‘taking Nepal to the path of progress to realise its real potential’ was his dream, something that he wants to realise in his life time. The peace process and end of conflict was Maoists farewell to weapons and yesterday, Bhattarai said farewell to communism. But what he aspires to do is something he has to prove in the days to come.
Nepal’s political parties, especially the left radicals are more discredited than ever, and nothing would illustrate it more than the departure of its key ideologue from line. Bhattarai has brought together people from all walks of life–arts, literature, administration, down trodden and disgruntled elements from other parties – with no one likely to challenge him in near future as a leader. But the group is different or less committed compared to the ideologically indoctrinated Maoists, with its cadres willing to risk their life for a leader. His stint as the Prime Minister for more than a year until March 2012 also eroded much of the myth or hope – that he is different from most other politician, something that would continue to prejudice peoples’ mind in his new avatar. And there lies the key to his success or failure in his set ambition: How is he new after having been in public life for so long? And does he possess the yet to unfold charisma, a message that he tried to give, as it was just a one-man show during the launch of the Party.