Bhattarai tenure: Started with bang, ended in whimper
“Now I am a free citizen. Thank you everybody who have stood with me during the last 18 months & 18 days,” Baburam Bhattarai, Nepal’s former prime minister tweeted hours after handing his post to the incumbent chief justice of the country on Thursday.
The 58-year-old seemed relieved to have left the position that has been the main bone of contention among political parties in Nepal since dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in May. It was also the reason for the prolonged political and constitutional crisis.
A day after leaving his official residence in Baluwatar, Bhattarai told media persons that his tenure was successful as it was able to take the much delayed peace process, which involved integration of former Maoist rebels into Nepal Army, to a near conclusion.
But instead of accepting responsibility for failing to deliver the new constitution and hold elections on the date announced by his government (when Constituent Assembly got dissolved), the senior Maoist leader put the blame on the opposition for those failures.
Though achievements in the peace process are noteworthy, Bhattarai’s inability to promulgate the statute and conduct polls are the two chief letdowns by which his tenure—one of the longest in Nepal’s recent history—is likely to be remembered by posterity.
The scenario however was very different in August 2011 when he got elected as prime minister. Even before his election Bhattarai was seen as the one who had the ability to deliver the constitution—he had won all opinion polls on who’s the best candidate for the PM’s post.
And he didn’t disappoint, initially. In his first address to the nation, 18 days after assuming charge, he termed his ‘achievements’ a film trailer and assured more would follow. His decision to use a locally-assembled SUV as his official vehicle endeared him to many.
A month into office Bhattarai told BBC that if he failed to complete the peace process and make the first draft of the constitution within November 2011, he won’t like to continue as the prime minister. But as subsequent events showed, he failed in both tasks and yet remained in his post.
Bhattarai’s credibility and image got further eroded when he refused to budge, first after dissolution of the Constituent Assembly without a constitution and then when his government failed to hold the next parliamentary elections on the date he had himself announced.
By remaining glued to his post, Bhattarai prolonged the political and constitutional crisis. And his ‘support’ to party colleagues found guilty of human rights violations during the civil war alienated him from the masses who were overjoyed when he took charge.
When he left office last week, Nepal was in no better state than when he joined. Though he would like to state otherwise, Bhattarai’s tenure, which started with a bang, ended in a whimper—–not entirely due to his faults.
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