The adage “power once captured is rarely relinquished” seems to apply perfectly in the case of PM Baburam Bhattarai. Despite continuous pressure from opposition parties, and from the breakaway Maoist party, PM Bhattarai is undeterred. His nonchalant dismissal of oppositions’ demands for his resignation to create conducive environment for consensus-building seems to mock trust-building efforts of his own party chairman. Bhattarai, while addressing a press conference upon his arrival from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, termed oppositions’ resignation call as “children crying for toys.” Bhattarai added: “A child cries for a toy, and even bangs his head, gets tired after some time and resumes his normal activities. Same will happen to the political parties
[that have been demanding his resignation].” These callous remarks have not only sparked furor among intelligentsia, but also demeaned his well-groomed personality. Though there are no set rules binding a prime minister, it is expected of a person in that position to maintain at least minimum standards of decorum.
He went on to say that he would not resign until a new government is formed by an elected parliament. This was not what the opposition parties had been expecting. UCPN (Maoist) chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had clearly told negotiating parties that his party was ready to relinquish power if consensus is found. But now that Bhattarai has vowed not to give up before a parliament is elected, the trust level among the parties has come down a peg. This has created further uncertainties in finding a workable solution to the current problems.
Despite the president declaring his government a caretaker one, Bhattarai continues to claim his government is a legitimate one which will hold elections on November 22. But he should understand that his government which never had backing of the country’s other major forces, has further weakened after his party’s senior leader Mohan Baidya formed a new party and a group led by Sharat Singh Bhandary quit the deputy prime minister Bijaya Gacchchedar-led Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Loktantrik). Even if we go by the number of members in erstwhile CA, Bhattarai lacks the backing of the majority. More than that, his recent callous remarks seemed totally unwarranted as there will be no election of either CA or the regular parliament without Nepali Congress and CPN-UML on board. He should keep in mind that any effort towards finding lasting solutions to constitution-making and peace process cannot be found unless there is consensus among major parties.
Recent developments in experimental psychology suggests that the more power one has, the less one is likely to consider others’ perspectives, implying that the powerful have less empathy; this clearly shows in Bhattarai. Bhattarai too has grown big in the past decade, making him one of the key players in Nepali politics. When Bhattarai, along with his comrades, began the “People’s War” in 1996, many believed that he had made a mistake as he had far better prospects as an intellectual. But when the conflict came to an end and historic changes came in its wake, people pinned high hopes on him. But after his ‘unilateral’ decision to announce new CA election and given his reluctance to listen to others, Bhattarai too is now seen as a politician concerned solely with power. He, however, still has time to change his mind and create an environment for dialogue by making way for an inclusive, consensus government.