SILVER LININGS

Agents of change

Celebrating 25 movers and shakers who helped shape Nepal over the past 25 years

- KAMAL DEV BHATTARAI, Kathmandu

In the last 25 years, Nepal witnessed a huge political change. The establishment of a republican setup following the abolition of a 240-year-old monarchy, secularism, federalism and inclusion are the major historical changes that the country embraced during this period.

While it was a culmination of the efforts made by the major parties—Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, CPN (Maoist Centre) and Madhes-based parties—that led to Nepal becoming a federal and secular republic, it was originally the Maoists who brought the issue of state restructuring to the fore. And leading the Maoist movement were Pushpa Kamal Dahal and his former deputy Baburam Bhattarai. However, debates still rage in various quarters over the justification of the Maoist movement which claimed the lives of around 17,000 people.   

“The credit for all the achievements we gained during this period goes to Dahal and Bhattarai. The removal of the monarchy, secularism, inclusion and federalism were the agenda of the Maoist party to which other parliamentary parties agreed,” said political analyst Shyam Shrestha who has been closely following political developments in Nepal.

Currently, Dahal and Bhattarai lead separate parties. In the past three decades, Dahal and Bhattarai worked together to bring about a political change in the country despite their serious differences on ideology. Though their relations, even at the best of times, have been termed an ‘uneasy alliance’, observers acknowledge the role played by the two leaders to adopt the line of peace and constitution after abandoning the path of violence.

“Such changes were possible because Prachanda always took bold, risky and off-the-track decisions, and he provided strong leadership to the party,” said Shrestha.  “On the other hand, Bhattarai always supported Dahal on the intellectual front such as preparing the party’s policies and programmes and the manifesto,” he added.

Bhattarai played a major role in bringing the Maoist party to the track of peace and constitution. During the insurgency period, it was very hard for Prachanda to choose between going for peace and constitution and continuing the revolt. Bhattarai drove him to the line of peace and constitution. 

After the Chunwang meet, the party supported Bhattarai’s line and Dahal-Bhattarai relations became reenergized. It was in Chunwang that the party adopted competitive politics and realised the need to work together with the parliamentary parties to overthrow the monarchy. After that, Bhattarai played a leading role in forging the 12-point understanding with the parliamentary forces.  

Even after the signing of the 12-point understanding, there were a lot of differences between the two leaders. From 2006 to 2008, there was a cordial relationship between the two. When they appeared together publicly after Jana Andolan II in Baluwatar, both were dressed in matching uniforms.  Differences surfaced between them at the Kharipati meeting in 2008 and the sixth extended plenum in 2010 over ideological issues.

After Dahal and Bhattarai took the line of peace and constitution, both faced opposition from the party’s Mohan Baidya-led faction. When Dahal was party president and Baburam Bhattarai was prime minister, they decided to go for the integration of the Maoist combatants. This move was also opposed by the Baidya faction. Due to these two developments, the Maoist party suffered a split. 

—By Kamal Dev Bhattarai

Published: 2018-02-19 12:11:54