Saturday, July 20, 2013

Seduction Of The Senior Leader

Confronting the surprise resignation of vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) seems to have resolved to go the way of its two leading peers.
Whether party chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s offer of the position of ‘senior leader’ would do much to appease Dr. Bhattrarai or ameliorate the UCPN-Maoist’s underlying identity crisis remains to be seen. But the senior leader’s position does represent a remedy that has worked reasonably well with the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML).
Former prime ministers Sher Bahadur Deuba and Madhav Kumar Nepal are ordained as senior leaders in their respective parties. By proffering such structured obeisance, Maila Baje feels the parties have tamed internal dissidence to a tolerable level, allowing both the Nepali Congress and UML to negotiate their wider and ostensibly interminable churning processes.
Neither man needs to investigate or invoke his organizational strength at any given moment or on any given issue in order to maintain his preeminence in the political discourse of the day. Through due deference, the official leaders feel they have done enough to contain any threat to their own positions.
The UCPN-Maoist’s position is more analogous to that of the UML than to the Nepali Congress. Each of the two major communist parties is today led by a former prime minister who, in turn, has to accommodate the pride and predilections of another ex-premier.
But there is also a key difference. While UML senior leader Nepal has already led his party, Dr. Bhattarai has never had such exclusive organizational dominance. For his part, Deuba, a three-time premier, has the good fortune of working among men who have never held the top job.
Narayan Kaji Shrestha, the other vice-chairman of the UCPN-Maoist, is not too happy with the prospect of Dr. Bhattarai’s elevation. His own ambitions – and the back-story of his rapid rise in the party – are too strong to overcome.
Then there is that possibility of reunification of the Maoist factions. Cutting through momentary alliances of convenience, it is pretty clear that Dr. Bhattarai is by far more polarizing to the breakaway group than anyone else.
What really compound the UCPN-Maoist’s challenge, though, are the persona, temperament and attitude of Dr. Bhattarai. He still has a penchant for taking almost exclusive credit for Nepal having become a republic, despite the fact that he was the last man to speak of a cultural monarchy so late in the day.
Rarely, if ever, has the persona of a politician taken such a precipitous plunge before and after his stint in Singh Darbar. Yet Dr. Bhattarai doesn’t believe he can be held responsible for his government’s failures. As all true leftists asserts, he feels his motives and intentions should count the most.
In search of the greatness that he seems convinced fate has thrust upon him, Dr. Bhattarai’s iconoclasm has taken startling forms. The other day, he became the only ex-premier to urge the government take responsibility for the medical treatment of former prime minister Marich Man Singh Shrestha, who is battling lung cancer in a New Delhi hospital.
When reports emerged recently that Dr. Bhattarai might be joining the Nepali Congress, they sparked guttural gasps of incredulity. Yet they were immediately succeeded by an acknowledgement that there might be some method to such madness, precisely given the man so afflicted.
Hey, it’s even tempting to believe that the elevation of Dr. Bhattarai may have something uplifting for all of us.