Each day that Dr Babu Ram Bhattarai is at the helm of the state affairs as prime minister of the country, it is a geometrical ruin to his record and reputation. Undoubtedly, Dr. Bhattarai had enjoyed the rock solid reputation as a person of intellect and integrity and his acceptability among the people was at the peak when he was elected to the post of prime minister. The Nepalese people had really longed for his rise as prime minister as the best and legitimate option for setting the anomalies plaguing the nation straight and completing the unfinished agenda for peace and constitution. Dr. Bhattarai had claimed that both peace and constitution were his own major planks as minimum objectives of the party. And, he had defended these objectives in face of the doctrinal resistance put up by his formidable opponents, including Mohan Vaidya, who has formally separated from the UCPN (Maoist) recently. Finally, he was able to lure the vacillating Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” over his side—a clear vindication and victory for his line of thought in the party mired intra-party bickering.
After his ascent to the post of the prime minister, he had not only promised the completion of the peace and constitution but to deliver prosperity (“Shanti, Sambidhan ra Samriddhi”) to the people. Woefully, he has failed on all the counts. Though he was able to vacate the cantonments as part of adjustment and integration of the ex-Maoist combatants, almost all the ex-fighters have not been happy with the scheme of the things designed for the integration of the combatants. Dr. Bhattarai performed badly on the count of the constitution-writing and allowed for the demise of the popularly elected constituent assembly. As the prime minister, he should fully own up the responsibility for the failure of the constitution-writing process and dissolution of the CA—an elected institution for which people had yearned and fought for over six decades in the country. His pledge to deliver prosperity can be forgiven because materializing economic take-off and prosperity needs long time, which should be supported by a combination of various other factors . But his failing to deliver the constitution cannot be condoned and excused at any cost. Thus, much to the dismay of the people who had wished and supported him as prime minister, he has disappointed them.
He is gradually frittering away with his hard earned image and reputation through his ill-conceived and unwise decisions. Actually, many who were once his admirers have turned his critiques and detractors. He has lost the goodwill and support of the people who had expected him to set a new high of honesty and performance befitting his sterling academic record and precedent.
Dr. Bhattarai’s cohabitation with the Madhesi Morcha and some of his decisions like formation of the gigantic sized council of ministers can be reconciled or justified with reference to the rule of necessity. He can be given benefit of doubt on the ground that the cabinet turned out to be the biggest ever because he had to accommodate different interests and aspirations in the government. Similarly, his clinging to the seat of power despite objection of the opposition parties can be wronged and faulted morally and politically, but this can be excused or reconciled as no clear scenario of the alternative arrangement for the new national consensus government has been in place.
The concrete and verifiable achievement of the government led by Dr. Bhattarai has been the demolition drive carried out in widening the roads in the capital and other parts of the country. Though the affected Kathmandu locales have protested the manner with which the drive has been implemented, the flattening of the structures erected through encroachment of the public land has been a bold and commendable act. However, of all the omissions and commissions attributed to Dr Bhattarai during his tenure as prime minister, the decision to provide huge life long perks and benefits including residential facilities to former VVIPs like former prime ministers has drawn ire and anguish of the people. The decision has inflicted much damage upon his image and integrity. A person of his stature and popular support, who championed the cause of the downtrodden and poor people and framed and practiced ideology for their liberation, should not have become a party to such an anti-people decision that could ignite protests, indignation and provocation. Moreover, this has ridiculed his brighter and taintless political track record.
Dr. Bhattarai’s commencement as prime minister had inspired ordinary folks and generated quite a lot of hope and encouragement among the people, but the latter days of his tenure as prime minister have allowed the growing optimism and inspiration to fade away. The hopelessness and disappointment have loomed larger. He has dispirited many denizens like this scribe who had reposed trust and hope on him and expected him to do things differently as if he was rather a different clone than the conventional corrupt politicians. But, unfortunately, he has failed on this count and joined in the bandwagon of the old fashioned politicians and political actors.