Saturday, December 14, 2013

Remorse, But Not Quite…

For United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) leader Baburam Bhattarai, this is the season for lamentations. In a recent post on his Facebook page, the social-media-savvy former prime minister lamented his failure to enforce his well-known ideology and commitments, to the point of owning up to a lack of will power.
That attribute was on full display when he congratulated the country for the successful November 19 constituent assembly elections, only to join a day later party colleagues who alleged massive fraud.
“Personally, I have raised relevant issues on prosperity and development time and again”, Bhattarai said, recalling that doing so earned him a ‘decent amount’ of public trust. “However, I couldn’t take control over my own will power at the disposal of feeble strength of my own party.”
On the night of May 28, 2012, Bhattarai said, he made the biggest mistake of his life: backtracking on his intention to extend the term of the constituent assembly yet again by imposing a state of emergency. Now, Maila Baje wonders, would our erudite comrade have volunteered such remorse if his party had won an outright majority in the recent elections?
He blamed other forces within the country and outside for his failure to extend the assembly. Forget the totalitarian thought at the root of that contention. The attempt to blame others carried the same political infantilism many educated leftist elitists at the helm in countries – developed and developing – have been prone to exhibiting. When things go south, it’s always the other guy’s fault.
Yet, in fairness, Bhattarai conceded that his party could not stand out from the contemporary political powers and leaders, despite its vaunted promises. But, again, that sounded less a personal dirge than a public indictment of party colleagues.
The former premier said he would move forward coordinating with people, institutions and parties with similar ideology within and outside the UCPN-M. But we know better than to expect sudden outburst of cooperation and consensus from Bhattarai.
This is wounded pride speaking. A man who virtually sought credit for singlehandedly turning Nepal into a republic now warns despairingly of the restoration of the 1990 constitution his party rose up against. But isn’t there more an air of having been victimized than an acknowledgement of having been defeated?
The victimhood the Maoist leader seeks to project was evident in his earlier reaction to the arrest of a party cadre on a charge of murder. Bhattarai challenged the government to arrest him instead since he was the head of “revolutionary government” during the time of the alleged crime.
Bhattarai is smart enough to know that if his wartime status were the issue here, the arrest of a murder accused should be the least of his worries. Sure, the lack of a Truth of Reconciliation Commission has impeded efforts to address some of the central wartime issues in accordance with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. But wasn’t it the Bhattarai government’s insistence on a blanket amnesty for Maoists what stymied the process? Why, then, should justice, in this case, be held in abeyance?
It’s reassuring to know that national independence and inclusive nationalism, inclusive democracy and inclusive development will remain Bhattarai’s personal political commitments. What he should know is that his tenure in power was not in vain. He has wizened up Nepalis in no small measure. They will remain most vigilant of leaders who make the grandest claims about their powers and purposes.