Poles apart

  • Bhattarai’s ‘new force’ will struggle to hold middle class, marginalised groups

Nov 5, 2015-

Six weeks after Baburam Bhattarai quit the UCPN (Maoist), there are signs that the former prime minister is preparing to form a new political party. Bhattarai had initially quit the party individually, but now over 40 of his UCPN (Maoist) colleagues have decided to quit the party to join Bhattarai’s naya shakti, new force. Since his departure from his old party, Bhattarai has been very active in reaching out to diverse sections of society, soliciting advice and support. There is a plan to hold a ‘national convention’ on November 20.

It is noteworthy that Bhattarai hopes to create a political outfit that is substantially different from those that have existed in Nepal so far. In recent years, he has clearly been influenced by the rise of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi. When Bhattarai speaks of a naya shakti, he envisages a group that is decentralised and anti-hierarchical, where diverse voices are heard and allowed to implement diverse agendas.

In a way, the party organisation that Bhattarai wants to create is an antithesis of the centralised Leninist model as generally practiced by theMaoist parties and, to a lesser extent, now the largest left party, CPN-UML.

Bhattarai claims that he wants to bring together diverse constituencies that have not historically allied to his party. His messages are as interesting. On the one hand, Bhattarai speaks about economic growth and good governance. The people who are most attracted to this message come from the middle classes in Kathmandu and other urban centres. On the other hand, he also speaks about how marginalised groups like the Madhesis, Tharus and other Janajatis have received short shrift in the new constitution.

It is clear that the task that Bhattarai has set for himself is a very difficult one. It is never easy for a new political force to emerge in any democracy that has entrenched political parties. Besides, it will be immensely difficult to sustain an anti-hierarchical and decentralised political group. Even the AAP in Delhi  is struggling to sustain this model, even with all its talk of ground-breaking reforms. Over a period of time, fissures appeared within the party, leading to the purge of some senior leaders.

It will be difficult for Bhattarai to reconcile the positions of the urban middle class with those of Madhesi and Janajati groups, especially in these deeply polarsed times where anger between these two sets of groups is at an all-time high. As a Maoist ideologue, he continues to face serious public charges and ire about the killings during the 10-year-old insurgency.

Yet we do welcome the initiative to build a new political force and acknowledge the need to engage the nonpolitical professional class in politics, instead of deeply partisan party crowd, which often seems hopelessly out of sync with the general public opinion and popular aspirations. Bhattarai’s political experiment, therefore, is an intriguing one and will continue to attract substantial public attention in the days ahead, including of this newspaper.

Published: 05-11-2015 08:38

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