Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai seems to have taken the demand for him to step aside to make way for a new consensus government rather personally. Going by his statements, it appears he is angry at what he perceives as a coordinated effort between opposition parties and a big section of his own party to ‘encircle’ him, and force him to bow out in humiliation. Bhattarai would be wrong to see it that way, for while there could be certain sections of politicians, intelligentsia and media that bear some personal grudges against him, by and large, the call for him to make way has been motivated by a genuine desire for a breakthrough in the long-stalled political and constitutional process. We believe his voluntary exit at the current difficult juncture would be in the best interest of both Bhattarai and the country.
At a personal level, it will show him as a leader who is ready to make a personal sacrifice for the country’s greater good, and will enhance his future prospects at higher office, which, given the fractured national polity, is again sure to be a matter of hard political bargaining. For the country, his exit will clear the final hurdle to new CA polls, which will rejuvenate the stalled constitutional process and bring a new sense of hope among the people.
Sadly, Bhattarai doesn’t appear to see things this way. The Federal Democratic Republican Alliance (FDRA), the governing coalition, has recently put forth the option of the revival of the Constituent Assembly, if the other options they have put on the table fail. We are firmly against the revival of the old CA. It failed to give the country a constitution in the four long years of its questionable extended existence. Besides, the country has moved far ahead. The agenda of CA revival was discarded months ago with mutual agreement between all major parties.
The revival of the option now can only be interpreted as the government’s desire to continue in office indefinitely without holding new polls. As we have been consistently arguing since the demise of the CA on May 27, new CA polls are by far the most democratic and legitimate way to settle the contentious issues that sank the last constitution making body. And as things stand, this goal can be achieved only through the formation of a national consensus government. Since the current Bhattarai government lost its moral and legal legitimacy after its failure to hold the self-declared polls on Nov 22, it must make way for the creation of such a consensus government.
While Bhattarai’s adamant stand has not helped matters, nor has the constant flip-flips of UCPN (Maoist) and its chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Dahal, who had reportedly had a verbal war with Bhattarai over the latter’s reluctance to make way for an NC-led consensus government, now seems to be firmly in favor of continuing with Bhattarai as PM unless the opposition agrees to one of the impractical options put forward by FDRA. Dahal’s latest U-turn once again buttresses his image as someone whose words cannot be trusted. We hope Dahal, Bhattarai and his coalition colleagues understand the implications of continuing in office at any cost, including precluding the possibility of May 2013 polls. They would do well not to test the limits of people’s patience, which has already reached a breaking point