A fresh startThis is probably Prachanda’s last opportunity to redefine his leadership and lead Nepal to prosperity
In an informal event a few years ago, I happened to meet Bhutan’s members of parliament, who spoke highly of Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Prachanda. They argued that Prachanda was a visionary leader who was highly trusted by the international community to bring about political stability in Nepal. I was surprised by their views. Nonetheless, this conversation took place a long time ago when Prachanda had just become Nepal’s prime minister for the first time, and his journey from the people’s war to mainstream politics had made the international community hopeful that he and his party would usher in stability into the country. But now, I do not think that the international community maintains that faith. Moreover, his first tenure as prime minister did not turn out to be productive.
No doubt the Oli government failed to address the demands of the Madhesis. Further, Oli’s untimely and unwanted political comments against the Madhesis created a trust deficit between the Madhesi leaders and the Oli government. Still, Oli did succeed in using the ‘blockade’ card against India to rouse patriotic and nationalistic sentiments. His bold decision to cancel the President’s visit to India and his successful visit to China did make him popular among the people. And his constant emphasis on development did raise people’s hope, no matter how preposterous his plans sounded. With his departure, the major challenge for Prachanda will be to advance development projects and balance Nepal’s relationship with both its neighbours. Moreover, as Prac-handa initiated the no-confidence motion in a bid to form a new government, the onus now lies on him to bring all the parties on board and implement the constitution.
If Prachanda wants to be successful in his second inning as prime minister, he needs to learn from his mistakes and tackle head on the challenges facing the country. His first challenge is to conclude the peace process through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Prachanda will face immense pressure from his party to settle the war-era cases by making sure none of the party members get arrested. This is where things can get tricky. The second challenge is to address the demands of the Madhesis and Janajatis through constitutional amendments. Prima facie, the issue is complicated, but Prachanda’s ability to bargain and accommodate the demands of the disgruntled parties in a balanced way will be the key to his success.
Raising the bar
It is often argued that politicians are performers and Nepali politicians are highly capable of award winning performances. Among many Nepali politicians, Prachanda has his own sheen and set of acting skills that have impressed many. In recent years, several political episodes have given a wrong impression of Prachanda within the political circle and among the general public. Perhaps Prachanda should learn from his past and realise that his comments on a public forum—comparing himself with a historian or issuing the threat of another revolution—do not benefit him. People have already digested his popular propaganda since the first Constituent Assembly election, when he tried to present himself as the country’s first president. So blame games and threats to quit the government must be his lowest priority, as they will only tarnish his image. Well, it is high time that the Maoist party and its chairman questioned themselves and reflected on what they have achieved in last eight years. The party has disintegrated into several groups; his long-time confidant Baburam Bhattarai has left him and formed a new party.
After considering all the episodes in Prachanda’s political life, his recent appointment as the prime minister is probably his last opportunity to redefine his leadership and take the country towards economic prosperity by taking into confident diverse groups. I am not a big fan of Prachanda or of his political ideology, but I still believe that he has the charisma to take the country ahead. Time will tell whether ‘Prachandapath’ will lead Nepal to prosperity.
Upreti is an advocate