Baburam Bhattarai stole the limelight when he entered the BICC hall to participate in the sixth anniversary of the Reporters' Club in Kathmandu. Earlier this week, colleagues Ram Bahadur Thapa and Matrika Yadav accompanied Bhattarai to his first public function in seven years. Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand entered the hall seconds after Bhattarai with his entourage of bodyguards but was largely ignored by the public who focused all their attention on the rebel leaders. Chand and the Maoist leaders shook hands warmly and when they were invited to take their seats at the dais, Bhattarai and Chand smiled and whispered to each other to jointly preside over the function.
Bhattarai greeted leaders of the other political parties with equal warmth-shaking hands and distributing hugs to those who dared to encourage a more intimate greeting. He raised his fist in a lal salaam to Bamdev Gautam and Hridesh Tripathi. The organisers treated Chand and Bhattarai on an equal footing by asking both of them to jointly inaugurate the function. Throughout the proceedings Prime Minister Chand appeared visibly discomfited. When the master of ceremony requested both the leaders to distribute certificates and awards Bhattarai looked elated, while Chand seemed exasperated.
The audience was fascinated by how the leaders who bayed for each other's blood a few months ago now hugged each other in public. Several members of the audience were also heard speculating what might have happened if these leaders had discovered this warmth a few years earlier. Applause filled the hall when RPP president Rajeswor Devkota suggested Bhattarai should now take up the role of an alternate prime minister, adding it was "everyone's desire". Bhattarai maintained a thoughtful expression at the statement.