Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai began cutting a pathetic figure months after he took that ride on the Mustang. A year later, the Messiah, who had emerged ostensibly to exorcise all our evils of the past, has ended up accumulating new apparitions.
Billed as smarter, savvier and more sophisticated than any of his predecessors – commoner and oligarch alike – the incumbent prime minister ignored the pitfalls extending from his persona. Nepalis have never spared a leader who has started off making or implying soaring promises. Nor has any leader ceased blaming everybody else for his or her failures. But when they perceive a narcissist trying to wriggle out of responsibility, Nepalis are unforgiving. They sure still see a trained architect in our prime minister, but one who has demonstrably destructive proclivities in war and peace.
Dr. Bhattarai, to be sure, has maintained a reputation for personal probity. Yet he has surrounded himself with the sleazy and slimy. Girija Prasad Koirala did not have a mansion in Kathmandu or a particularly glamorous personal wardrobe, either. That didn’t stop Nepalis from drawing the conclusions of the man that they have.
Dr. Bhattarai, Maila Baje feels, made a strategic decision early on. He had spent years railing against the emergence of the equivalent of Sikkim’s Lhendup Dorji at a time when Nepalis needed to redress the external injustices inflicting upon them since the Sugauli Treaty. If he happened to make decisions as premier that seemed to conflict with that expectation, he seemed to have wagered, Nepalis would see them as part of the compulsions of governing a geo-strategically perilous nation.
The Chinese understood this psychology well and, with a little tinkering, have left him virtually begging for an invitation to Beijing. But the Indians aren’t cooling their heels, either. It is hardly an accident that they chose to reveal Dr. Bhattarai’s secret contacts with New Delhi when his party – and his own prose – was most virulently anti-Indian in public. Even in the midst of the BIPPA fiasco and the controversy over the circumstances surrounding Dr. Bhattarai’s meeting with his Indian counterpart in Teheran, New Delhi has refused to throw a reliable lifeline. When the Indian ambassador announced a special grant to Dr. Bhattarai’s former school in Gorkha the other day, his wink-wink was barely concealed.
Today, a supposedly ceremonial head of state has mustered the will to reminds us that he can’t sit idly by any longer, in effect, issuing a thinly veiled threat to the premier. What’s Dr. Bhattarai going to do next to save his mortal soul? Finally reveal who the real author of his June 6, 2001 ‘Let’s Not Legitimize This New Kot Massacre’ essay was?