Nepali Times Asian Paints
PRASHANT JHA
Plain Speaking
Unscripted lines


PRASHANT JHA


Marxists argue that broader social and economic forces, rather than individuals, shape the course of history. But Nepal may still have been stuck in a bloody conflict but for Dr Baburam Bhattarai and his emphasis on democratic republicanism. The ongoing attempts to marginalise him within the Maoists reveal much about the balance of power and how counterproductive it could be for the peace and constitution-writing process.

Prachanda remains the unchallenged supremo. His control over the organisational apparatus, ability to reconcile interests, and personal charisma are testimony to remarkable political skills.

Kiran has a support base of loyalists like Biplab who call the shots in the party's base areas, operators like Krishna Mahara, polemicists like CP Gajurel, ethnic champions like Deb Gurung, and key PLA and YCL figures.

Judged in terms of numbers of supporters, Dr Bhattarai is not the most powerful. He does not believe in patronage politics, but is a man of ideas who translates them into practice. Bhattarai conceptualised the war; judged when the time was ripe for peace and convinced the party of it; ensured its aims of a republic and CA were fulfilled; and has given the party respectability way beyond its base. Even now, it is Bhattarai and supporters such as Khimlal Devkota and Ananta who have been doing all the groundwork in the CA or peace negotiations.

Most importantly, Bhattarai has provided Nepali Maoism an intellectual coherence on issues as varied as federalism, the nature of the state, internal colonisation of the Tarai, class and ethnicity, and the nature of the 'semi-colonial' relationship with India.

In his 1997 essay, 'Political-Economic Rationale of the War', Bhattarai identifies Nepal's key structural problems: the use of Nepal as an exporter of raw materials and a secure market for finished Indian products; the unfavourable balance of trade; control of the Nepali economy through Indian-origin capitalists; the trend of MNCs operating in Nepal through their Indian subsidiaries; unequal water treaties; use of cheap Nepali labour; and the hegemony of Indian monetary policy. Bhattarai's articulation remains the single most important text on which the Maoist insistence on redefining the relationship with India is based.

That is why it is a bit rich for party rivals to accuse Bhattarai of being an Indian agent. Under the radical garb lie deep fears. Kiran feels ideologically dwarfed by Bhattarai's creative and so far successful application of Maoism, dubs him a revisionist, and is looking for a role for himself. Prachanda is personally insecure, and is afraid Bhattarai could trump him due to his popularity across party lines, performance in government and international credibility. He is also keen to cosy up to his orthodox colleagues by criticising Bhattarai.

Even if the end goal of radical state restructuring and hegemonic control is common to all Maoists, there are significant differences on how to get there - which have implications for the evolution of the party itself.

Kiran believes that class warfare has to move to the next stage through a violent urban insurrection. Bhattarai understands the need for a broad multi-class, multi-ethnic alliance, and feels that a combination of mass politics, constitutional process, and elections can win the Maoists state power. He recognises geopolitical limits, and will engage with India more constructively in contrast to the abuse in public-suck up in private approach adopted by Prachanda, or the blind chauvinism of Kiran. Bhattarai knows the way to transform Nepal's structural dependence is through internal resource mobilisation and boosting national competitiveness while using India.

Make no mistake - Dr Bhattarai is a committed Maoist, not a social democrat. But his approach will force the Maoists to address diverse interests, and create checks against their violent impulses. This can however succeed only with more openness on the part of non-Maoists externally, and Prachanda's backing internally.

By snubbing Bhattarai and his 'line' again - as Prachanda did by depriving him of the deputy prime ministership in August 2008 and incorporating Kiran's views at Kharipati two months later - the Maoists run the risk of undermining their achievements, repeating the mistakes of their 20th century communist counterparts, and failing.

READ ALSO:
Deja vu - FROM ISSUE #484 (08 JAN 2010 - 14 JAN 2010)



1. Hari Prasad
Going by the relationship between Bhattarai (he might like it without the bourgeois title of Dr!) and Prachanda, it has been demonstrated several times that it is of a dog and its master. However, brute the master may be, and how many times the master may kick the dog in its snout, it will just whine for a while and eventually start wagging its tail again. Comrade Bhattarai may have the so-called ideology, but it all goes into vain when he fails utterly in generating any level of self-respect and leadership. For this incapacity of his, for espousing such people as Prachanda & Co., may be comrade Bhattarai deserves every whacking dished out by his supreme leader Prachanda. Of course, Prashant's worried that it might hurt the country, and he may be right up to an extend. But let me assure you, no one needs to feel sympathetic toward that jerk called Baburam, after all he also sits proud, smiling sinisterly atop the mountain of more than 13,000 bodies.

2. Neil Patrick
Political-Economic Rationale of the War the essay would be great? i think essay are generated on the older ages but we cant see essay that would be attract now a days thanks for the source of information....

3. Patriot
Hari, one cannot expect a person to be endowed with all the qualities. Bhattarai is a thinker, not a politician, you cannot blame him for not possessing the crooked ways of a politico, i am sure he will rise when the time is right, but as of now he understands it will be more dangerous for the party and the country if he also starts behaving like a slimy, opportunistic leader like some of his colleagues. Lets be thankful that there is atleast a sane person showing the path for the party, than other overzealous radicals who are desperate for relevance. Imagine if the country went the Kiran way.

4. May
Baburam is the lesser of the evil that is the Maobadi. Patriot is right. The leadership is criminlaised and that is why they don't like a pure revolutionary like Baburam.

5. Arthur
Look at this photo of Bhatterai and Prachanda. http://www.ekantipur.com/photo-gallery/3rd-day-of-Maoist-enforced-3-day-Banda/132/1431/ Interesting body language! Here's one of Kiran and Prachanda on the same occasion. http://www.ekantipur.com/photo-gallery/3rd-day-of-Maoist-enforced-3-day-Banda/132/1429/ Here is the scene they are looking at: http://www.ekantipur.com/photo-gallery/3rd-day-of-Maoist-enforced-3-day-Banda/132/1427/ Perhaps they are trying to guess who India will offer the job of PM to next? Or perhaps they are laughing at what kind of gossip the KTM "elite" will engage in to avoid thinking about what such a huge crowd actually means for the future of this kind of gossip.

6. बाबुराम
ए कुइरे कामरेड हाम्रो क्रान्ती हामि आफै गर्ने, तिम्रो हावादारी नारा चाहिन्न क्या ।

7. hange
Mr. Jha has done a nice job - interesting article. Of course, he had to slip in the phrase, " internal colonisation of the Tarai" which is unfortunate as, for once, he had actually appeared to liberate himself from his normal madesh-centric views. Excellent analysis - assuming it is correct. Interesting body language in the pictures Arthur. The Maoists have the power to harness such a huge crowd to do good for the country - or destroy its infrastructure and dismember it into constituent ethnic groups if they're not careful. Hopefully, they'll be constructive so they can keep smiling along with everyone else.

8. Arthur
Thanks for following the links hange. I just discovered that this site accepts html tags so they can be made easy to click on for others too.

Here they are again:

Bhatterai and Prachanda. Kiran and Prachanda. the huge crowd in front of them. Lets see if an img tag also works: Bhatterai and Prachanda laughing


9. rame
A simple question is, who requires ideology in Nepal?

10. jange
Mr. Hange- The "internal colonisation" that the author refers to is probably the economic political and social stagnation within the various communities of the Madhes. The leaders of Nepal have generally not been very good but that of Madhes has been far, far worse. And that includes people like the author . The Maoist violence has provided a fig leaf to cover for this failing but since the Madhes leadership has failed o come to grips with its own lack of leadership there is probably more mayhem to come. And as for the difference between Baburam and Prachanda- its the choice between being killed with a knife or a khukuri, having your legs broken with a log or a stone.

11. Sangam Rana
The so called rift between Prachanda and Bhattrai seems to be created one, (and not the real) by Indian intelligence agencies and Nepali eilites that run most of the newspaper houses in Nepal. Diffrences may be there, but as you know how the media does all the todmarod things. Siddarth Vardaraja of The Hindu daily in India also opined the same.

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