Old wine in new bottle


First, here is the translated excerpt from Dr. Baburam Bhattarai’s collection of writings justifying “Naya Shakti” (literally translates to “New Force”) political party in Nepal:

“The old parties is not adequate in the new era. The party needs to be renewed and renovated in a new style, as a new party, with new idea, new working direction, new organization, new leadership in new ways; and by now, the Maoists movement of yesteryear’s has been divided into many factions. Many new forces have also emerged outside. The new generation of youths, not aligned to any political party, have also arrived at the front with the lapse of 10-12 years since 2006” (Why I renounced my party?p56, www.nayashakti.org.np). I would like to point out the emphasis given on the word “new” in the above paragraph. Going by the paragraph it gives an impression that Dr. Bhattarai, either by design or default, seems to be assuming that mere repetitive use of the word “new” or “newness” is enough to justify for a new political force he contemplated in Nepal. It sounds unconvincing for an one time Maoist ideologue, Dr. Bhattarai, to come up with such a childish argument. His other writings posted in the website mentioned above do contain more than enough justifications,

The problem with Dr. Bhattarai is that without acknowledging the existence of the old, there cannot be anything that could be called new. Therefore, he has spent more than enough efforts to blame on the past – the old forces – for the present-day malaise of Nepal. As he is also the part and parcel of the same old forces, he has not forgotten, shrewdly, to take personal responsibility, albeit at subsidiary level. At the height of Maoists’ war, he justified the war, citing sacrifices made by the millions in other parts of the world. The Maoists once used to boast war as “a justified war” but, later, they were blaming elements within the party for reaping “profits” from the war.

Dr. Bhattarai has given three primary justifications for the new force in Nepal. These included: (a) economic revolutions have lagged behind political revolutions in Nepal; therefore, the need of the hour is to unleash economic revolutions in Nepal, (b) Nepal is a multi-ethic country comprising one-third each of bahun-chhetri, janajati and madhesi communities; we cannot expect peace and stability without striking unity between these three communities, and (c) being a landlocked country squeezed between two upcoming and competitive nations – India and China – it will be too difficult for Nepal to protect and promote its sovereignty, independence, and topographical integrity. To meet these contextual challenges, naya shakti has proposed five priority political agenda. These included: (a) independence and sovereignty of the country, (b) proportionate, inclusive and participative democracy, (c) equitable economic growth, (d) progressive socialism, and (e) integrity, good governance and good culture. Other than careful play of words, there is nothing new to reckon with this new force.

It is absurd to find Dr. Bhattrai getting naïve with the idea that Nepal has phased out political revolution and it is time, now, to concentrate on economic revolution. This is like Late Dr. Harka Gurung blaming old panchas, post 1980 referendum, for suggesting Nepali people to take Nepali style dal and bhat as separate dishes, instead of eating them together.

Dr. Bhattarai’s whole idea that Nepal has completed feudal system; entered bourgeois capitalism and now time to look for socialism is nothing more than a complete hogwash. Coming from a communist background, with communist regimes failing everywhere, he has framed this idea simply to please capitalist class in Nepal. His hogwash is clearly reflected when he speaks of three economic pillars (public, private and cooperative sectors) but admits private and cooperative sectors to be one and same.

Dr. Bhattarai is fond of speaking “double digit” growth. He is advised to read The End of Poverty by Prof Jeffery Sachs where Prof Sachs explains what is meant by 9 percent growth rate he observed in China – “an economy that is growing 24/7, with work shifts around the clock making up for a loss time.” If China can only attain 9 percent growth rate operating its factories 24 hours a day, seven days a week, imagine such possibilities in Nepal that is burdened by load-shedding, political strikes and official and unofficial blockades?

It is shameful to see Dr. Bhattrai dreaming like our classic Som Sharma when he speaks of developing, at least 40,000 MW, out of 80,000 MW capacity, and retaliating India for its blockade by creating blackouts in the states of UP and Bihar and unleashing a kind of Terai-Madhes like movement there (p34-35). Is this a joke or a kind of pagalpan?

For advocating independent, sovereign and integral Nepal I suggest Dr. Bhattarai to read the definition of sovereignty of Nepal vis-à-vis India, in the BIPA agreement that he conceded with India, during his tenure as the Prime Minister of Nepal.

At the end, let me assert, there is no doubt about his intellect, dedication and sacrifice; but the hodgepodge collection of colorful people in his new party is not impressive. There is an American saying: A house is no stronger than the people who live inside. Reading his political documents and manifestos, this scribe is a bit confused: Is he into establishing a new political party or an NGO for donor funding? One cannot replicate Arvind Kejriwal by cleaning the premises of temples and religious sites.

Narayan Manandhar

Narayan Manandhar is a freelance consultant with an interest in corruption and governance issues.