Rarely in the history of Nepal has anyone enjoyed so much a popular support as Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai did until recently.
People regarded him apparently as the last hope in a country marred by volatile politics, underdevelopment and stalled peace and constitution writing process. A highly respected intellect and communist ideologue, he is best regarded as a board topper for the School Leaving Certificate exam, a gateway to high school study.
At the beginningof days in office, he applied minor reforms and won public approval even more.
But his popularity seemed to quickly fade away as his ministers’ council asked President Ram Baran Yadav to pardon Balkrishna Dhungel, an accused murderer and also a member of Constituent Assembly from his own party, the Maoist, and he went on to form the largest Cabinet ever in Nepal’s history. He drew flack from all around over those two unpopular decisions and for a moment it seemed as if people had started to hate him beyond the limit. He endorsed those decisions just before he was due to leave for SAARC summit (Nov. 10 -11) in Maldives.
People were amazed and also largely disappointed at those two decisions as Mr. Bhattarai, a Ph.D., had always been held in such high esteem that other leaders of his contemporaries can only dream of. People trusted him as their last hope to clean up the mess this impoverished south Asian nation had long been grappling with as previous Prime Ministers were only involved in corruption and wrongdoing, completely ignoring people’s problems. Academic excellence, intellect and his tenure as successful finance minister previously earned him the unprecedented public love and approval.
In recent days, however, he’s making a gradual rebound from the slump. He’s being pivotal at forming consensus among the divided political parties on the issues of long-stalled peace and constitution writing process. The seven-point agreement reached on Nov. 1, 2011 among the major political parties on peace and constitution drafting process well speaks of his hard work. Now, the parties have shed animosities and pledged to work together to bring the peace and constitution drafting process to logical end all because of Mr. Bhattarai’s relentless effort.
Very recently, parties have agreed to form a commission for restructure of the state, which had previously been a political hot potato.
Previous prime ministers were proved incompetent on this. Nepal has already seen 4 consecutive prime ministers after a popular uprising in 2006 that overthrew 240-year-long monarchy.
Days ahead are not easy for Mr. Bhattarai. Nonetheless, he’s destined to only do what his countrymen has long been wanting, i.e. the timely completion of peace and constitution writing process and respite for the hard-hit people.