Bhattarai face intractable task
The political instability in Nepal seems to be looming large and is definitely getting worse. Nepal has elected its fourth prime minister in four years. Dr Baburam Bhattarai of Unified Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist (UCPN-M) is an alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) of India, where in 1986 he earned his PhD in underdevelopment and the regional structure of Nepal. Dr Bhattarai had graduated from Punjab University, Chandigarh and studied for a masters in the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi. He is Nepal’s second Maoist prime minister after Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, whose term lasted nine months in 2008-09. Bhattarai was one of the lead negotiators of the Maoists before and after the people’s movement of 2006 that overthrew the monarchy in Nepal. One can recollect that the rebels, represented by Dr Bhattarai’s Maoist’s party, fought a decade-long guerrilla campaign against the former monarchy until joining the United Nations-supervised peace process in 2006. The monarchy was eventually removed from power in 2008 but more than 16,000 people had died in the civil war.
Bhattarai has become Nepal’s 35th prime minister after polling 340 votes by defeating Nepali Congress candidate Ram Chandra Poudel who obtained 235 votes and United Madhesi Democratic Front Chairman Bijay Kumar Gachhadar who got 67 votes in election. Nepal’s newly-elected Prime Minister will have to face insurmountable task to have a political breakthrough to ensure a stable government to Nepal. Bhattarai knows very well that without broad-based support, he cannot expect to fulfill his top-most priorities - concluding the peace process through the effective integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants and writing a new constitution.
- The power sharing formula has yet to be evolved. One can recollect that in the absence of power-sharing formula had led to fall of all the three last prime ministers, including Prachanda himself. The term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) had expired on 31 August, 2011. Nepal's legislature-Parliament amended the interim constitution to extend the term of the Constituent Assembly by three more months. The CA's term, which would have ended on August 31, will now expire on November 30. It is to be mentioned that two major parties are in opposition and the major task of the constitution and peace will not be successful without NC and CPN-UML.
- The ethnic rivalry remains an intractable issue as the ethnic group had called a general strike on the day of the election of Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, two more called regional strikes on the day of the swearing-in. The closure called by the Limbuwan Rajya Parishad shut down nine districts in eastern Nepal adjoining the border with India.
- The law and order situation in Nepal has considerably deteriorated and for its improvement the PM has to go all out against the perpetrators and for his he has to raise himself from the party politics.
- The overall economy of Nepal is not sound and needs major boost up and due to growing political uncertainty, the economy is expected to deteriorate further. The deteriorating law and order situation has sent negative signals to investors.
- The new PM will also have to implement within 45 days the peace programme outlined ahead of the election. It includes rehabilitating the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army with its nearly 20,000 combatants. The new PM has unmanageable task which is going to be made tougher by his own party leaders who have been resisting the disbanding of the guerrilla army.
India’s reaction: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has conveyed his ‘’warmest felicitations’’ to Baburam Bhattarai on his election as the Prime Minister of Nepal, wishing him all success in the task of consolidating the democratic gains made by the people of his country. India has said that it attaches the highest priority to its relations with Nepal. The bilateral relations are special and characterized by intense people-to-people interaction and an open border. Indian remains committed to providing all assistance in building a more stable, democratic and prosperous Nepal, which will add to the security and prosperity of the region.
India must be worried by seeing another PM from the Maoist party. But it has to be noted that now India has to raise itself from the party position and attach equal status to Maoists because they are now an indispensible component of Nepali politics. The political conditions cannot supersede the economic imperatives and under such a situation India has to balance and neutralize the impact of China. And for this, India has to formulate a more viable and pragmatic policy by strengthening the traditional 'twin pillar policy by balancing both the Maoists and non-Maoist political parties. Nevertheless, India has to carefully watch the ongoing developments without any prejudice.