Always first, Bhattarai ‘first in politics’ too

KATHMANDU, AUG 29 -

Born in a lower middle class peasant family on June 18, 1954, in Belbas, Khoplang VDC, of Gorkha district, Baburam Bhattarai, is widely recognised for his political and intellectual activism. He is popularly addressed as ‘Dr Bhattarai’ for his doctorate degree in regional planning from India’s Jawaharlal Lal Nehru University (JNU). Today, he is known as one of the architects that led to the establishment of republic Nepal.

He had played a vital role to bring the UCPN (Maoist) and Parliamentary parties to common ground through the 12-point agreement which led to the abolishment of monarchy. He is known as the ‘always first’ or the ‘never second’ man.

Born in a remote village where formal education was in dribs and drabs, Bhattarai in his early childhood received informal education from a retired army soldier, Bhakta Bahadur Bhujel. His formal education began in the year 1963 only when the United Mission to Nepal opened Amar Jyoti High School in Luitel village, two-hour walking distance from Belbas.

In 1970, he stole the limelight for topping the tough SLC examinations, a feat unimaginable for a student from a remote village school. He pursued Intermediate in Science (ISc) from Amrit Science College in Kathmandu and repeated the same performance.  

In 1977, under the Colombo Plan, Bhattarai completed his Bachelors in Architecture from Chandigarh, India. He got the taste of political knowledge in the library of Punjab University, where he would spend hours reading books of great scientists and philosophers, introducing himself to the works of Kant, Marx and Che among others.

In 1979, he went on to complete his Masters in Town and Country Planning (Hons) with specialisation in Urban and Regional Planning from the School of Planning and Architecture from JNU.It was in JNU where he met Hisila Yami and later and married her. Bhattarai obtained his PhD degree in Regional Development Planning, from JNU. His thesis titled—’The Nature of Underdevelopment and Regional Structure of Nepal’—was later published as a book.  

In 1977, he became the founder president of All India Nepalese Students Association. While in India, he came into the contact of top political leaders of Nepal like BP Koirala, Tulsi Lal Amatya, Mohan Bikram Singh and Rishikesh Shah and plunged headlong into democratic politics. He was arrested in 1980 for the first time by Indian police while showing black flags to King Birendra in New Delhi. In 1981, Bhattarai became a member of the Communist Party of Nepal through Mohan Bikram Singh. Subsequently, he became active in organising migrant Nepali workers in India through All India Nepalese Unity Society (1979-1986).

Between 1977 and 1986 he became the editor of Janamanas and Nepali Ekta,

published from India. After completing formal education, he returned to Nepal in

1986 and became full-time party cadre and political activist. During the anti-Panchayat people’s movement of 1990 Bhattarai was the central spokesman of United National People’s Movement, a coalition of CPN (Masal), CPN (Mashal), Proletarian Labour Organisation and other left groups. Post-1990, his political activism intensified against, in is own words, ‘the weaknesses and limitations of the chronically infirm parliamentary system after 1990’. He was held and jailed in 1994 by the so-called democratic government.

Since 1991 Bhattarai has played an instrumental role in shaping the revolutionary path of the communist movement in Nepal as a politburo member of CPN (Unity Centre) and later of CPN (Maoist). Between 1991 and 2001, he was also the president of United People’s Front. During the People’s War, he remained underground from 1996 to 2006 and led the conflict on different fronts.

He has been the convener of the United Revolutionary People’s Council, a shadow People’s Government since 2001. In 2003, he led the Negotiating Team of CPN (Maoist) for peace dialogues. He is widely acknowledged as one of the architects of the Joint People’s Movement of 2006 and as a key negotiator of Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in November 2006.

In the first ever Constituent Assembly elections held in April 2008, Nepali people once again established him as the ‘Always First’ figure by electing him from Gorkha constituency No 2 with the highest number of votes and highest margin against the nearest rival (46,272 votes against 6,143; nearly 82 percent of the votes). In the subsequently formed government, headed by party Chairman Push Kamal Dahal, Bhattarai was appointed as finance minster. During his tenure he proved his worth.  

Between the end of 2004 and early 2005, relations between Chairman Dahal and Bhattarai soured. It was reportedly due to the disagreement on power sharing inside the party. Bhattarai was unhappy with the consolidation of power under the party chief. Dahal expelled Bhattarai from the party but he was later reinstated. When King Gyandra took the power in 2005, there was disagreement between Dahal and Bhattarai. Dahal was in favour of joining the hands with Royal palace, while Bhattarai was for joining hands with parliamentary parties.

The Maoist ideologue believes that the party should move ahead with a strategy of democratic republic and multiparty system for a time being as the other parties would not accept a people’s republic immediately. After his release from punishment and during a meeting held at Chunbang, a village in Rolpa, the party held discussions on Bhattarai’s idea. Only then the party came forward with a strategy of democratic republic rather than a people’s republic. Bhattarai’s strategies have worked out to date, which put forward the party as the main kingmaker of the nation’s politics.

Dahal and Bhattarai agree on strengthening the newly established democratic republic than implementing a people’s republic immediately.

Posted on: 2011-08-29 09:05