As leader of the largest political party and a key figure in the nation’s political transition, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda could have contributed more than anybody else to ending the protracted transition. Thanks to his misplaced priorities, he couldn’t. His mindset—a complex mix of revolutionary idealism, pragmatism and craftiness that often makes him unpredictable—has done more harm than good to the nation’s delicate political process and actors, not excluding him.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, Prachanda’s deputy in the party, deeply distrusts him, although the two were bound to unite as both needed the other’s help, at least till the impending General Convention of the party is over. By supporting the Bhattarai-Madhesi Morcha alliance that is, at the moment, India’s most trusted ally in the political centre-stage of Nepal, Prachanda tried to mend ways with our powerful southern neighbour often regarded as the ‘kingmaker’ in this country. In exchange, Bhattarai, who has a weak following in the party, sought the chairman’s cooperation to remain in power as well as to gradually consolidate his position within the party. However, the understanding between the two now seems to have reached a difficult point.
Baburam’s fall to disgrace has been much faster than that of Prachanda. In the post-peace process era, it took some years before Prachanda was exposed as a power hungry person. In Bhattarai’s case, a few months proved enough. Prachanda never projected himself as a crusader against corruption; Baburam did, but could not live up to his ideals. During the earlier phase of his premiership, he launched, with much fanfare, a number of populist programmes, only to quietly retreat or discontinue them later. He, who introduced a plethora of public relation measures, never learnt to control his arrogant attitude and impolite words during speeches and public appearances. Hardly ever does he smile; instead of handling difficult questions with tact or wit, he reacts curtly to journalists.
People who previously had great expectations from Bhattarai or people who regarded him as a man of vision, a leader who lives a humble lifestyle, a highly educated person and an incorruptible one are now disillusioned, to say the least. He always ignored, undermined or antagonised domestic political players and relied solely on the blessings of the Indian establishment and their satellite forces.
This attitude may cost him dearly, later if not now, as foreign powers are no permanent friends, especially to politicians whose domestic support base is weak.
However misguided and bloody their decade-long rebellion might have been, Prachanda and Bhattarai used to be revolutionaries; not anymore. To put it euphemistically, they are now rebels turned pragmatists, something liberal democratic forces like the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have yet to agree on; and their skepticism is not without reason. They fear that the Maoists are just waiting for an opportune time to seize power to impose the dictatorship of the ‘proletariat’. On the other hand, the breakaway group, which is now a new party—CPN-Maoist—that believes in ‘the purest form of communism’, opines that by adopting a bourgeoisie democracy Prachanda-Bhattarai have betrayed the cause of the proletariat and that they are ‘revisionists’.
This view, either, cannot be dismissed as fantasy. Since the two opposites can’t be true, one has to understand why forces on both sides of political divide don’t trust the UCPN (Maoist) leadership.
Well-informed and well-connected people in political and business circles whisper about the scale of Prachanda’s investments in business undertakings, including the media. Many, including his friends turned foes—the CPN-Maoists—accuse him of amassing wealth through un-proletariat, unethical and unfair means. Prachanda loves to say that he is
emotional (which is how revolutionaries are); yet neither emotional Prachanda nor scholastic Bhattarai have ever expressed, much less felt, remorse for any of their ghastly acts that include the bombing of a crowded public bus in Madi (which took scores of innocent lives) or the immolation of an eight year-old girl child (Kajol Khatun).
Quite uncharacteristic of revolutionaries, Prachanda often makes compromises with leaders from other parties, though he easily backtracks later, if the give and take doesn’t suit him. Bhattarai, however, sticks to what he says, which is a standard ‘no’ to everything proposed by his inter- and intra-party adversaries. Prachanda is easily accessible to all kinds of individuals and groups and promises everything to everybody. Bhattarai sees a few people and makes fewer promises. A frank and straight person despite his Machiavellian tactics, Prachanda speaks too much, which, more often than not, damages him. Baburam’s words are numbered and calculated, but far from being sweet.
Prachanda and many other Maoist leaders’ lifestyles are too sophisticated and their living expenses too high when judged by ‘communist’ standards, vehemently preached and advocated for by their party in the past. The party had punished people, often physically, for accumulating and using the type and scale of material comforts they themselves now enjoy. Bhattarai, however, still lives a simple and humble life, but controversies of nepotism and corruption, among other things, that taint his wife and her relatives, has washed away every reputation that he had earned. Finally, his adamant refusal, for quite some time, to step down as premier has fully tarnished his image of an honest politician.
India had offered the Maoist leaders sanctuary during their underground days, even helped Prachanda ascend to power five years back, but has been infuriated with him ever since he tried to play the ‘China card’ during his premiership. He is now repenting for his miscalculations and trying hard to establish rapport with Delhi. And obviously, he is not happy with Bhattarai’s role in this regard; or else he would not agree with his political opponents to seek an alternate to Bhattarai’s premiership.
Posted on: 2012-12-30 08:59