Call it quits

Age is certainly least likely to be a hindrance to being appointed as the country’s next prime minister. But that a person like Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, whose remarkable contribution to the restoration of democracy in 1990 and the peaceful transition of power to the people by successfully conducting elections after the historical switchover is unforgettable, should harbour and openly express the hope of returning to the hot seat now is a clear indication that all is not well with Nepali politics. This vintage scion of democracy has been fighting a stint of bad health, besides remaining on its frays, if not completely out of touch, with mainstream politics for quite a time now. His statement on Saturday had his admirers burst into peals of laughter. Invaluable as his experience and advice no doubt are, he is always welcome to share them. But beyond that, the founding member of the Nepali Congress must quit from the tumult of politics and give his younger brethren a chance to hold the reins of power.

The challenges that the next person heading the government must tackle, mainly to restore peace in the country, appear almost insurmountable. This, therefore, calls for a leader capable of conducting a free and fair vote besides resuming peace parleys with the Maoists as he prepares to tackle the high rate of unemployment, and get the development process back on tracks, not to mention rebuilding the lives of those shattered by insurgency. This means, the new leader must have a new vision for Nepal that can not only tow the country out of difficulty but also elevate it to the ranks of others in the Asian region within the next decade or two. How a frail and ailing man like Bhattarai who has to be ushered to a podium by two or more stewards, can do the job, is inconceivable. Nepal is in deep trouble. The need here is to cast aside personal and ideological differences and unite for a common cause for what is best for Nepal. Politicians will have ample chance to grind their ideological axes once normalcy returns.

Bhattarai, quite popular as an interim prime minister with a perpetual smile, may have some more of his lighter side to be shared with the public — doubtless a good trait in these gloomy times. But whether his repartee and sporadic humour alone would be able to brighten the faces of those who have lost their near and dear ones is not so certain. Given the recalcitrant politicos of the day, also doubtful is his capacity to forge a coalition to form an all-party government, which two governments in the recent past have clearly failed to achieve. Instead, Kisunji should save his blessings and advice. Put bluntly, he is too old to be in office and too fragile to bear the burden of power.