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Baburam’s challenge

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

2There is little surprise that UCPN-M deputy Baburam Bhattarai has been elected as Nepal’s 35th prime minister with a comfortable margin of 105 votes. Bhattarai secured 340 votes while his only competitor NC’s Ram Chandra Paudel could only manage 235.

Bhattarai had earlier played an instrumental role in bringing his party out of post ‘People’s War’ psyche and drop the official line of people’s revolt in favor of Peace and Constitution. Despite immense challenges within the party, Bhattarai managed to win confidence of a large number of his party members, including the hardliners.

Although he failed to garner support from NC and UML as a consensual candidate, Bhattarai became the obvious winner with strong support from Madhesi front and the fringe parties. His impressive record as a leader during his nine month tenure as a Finance Minister in Puspa Kamal Dahal’s cabinet played in his favour during the election.

After Speaker Subhash Chandra Nembang issued a ruling for mandatory voting, the parties were forced to either field a candidate of their own or choose between those contesting. This ruling helped Bhattarai collect a majority of the votes in his favour.

Most of the leaders on Sunday stated that although they (parties) did not agree entirely with Maoists’ programs, they believed that the party’s leadership was essential to take peace process and constitution drafting to its logical end. They were quite open about acknowledging Bhattarai’s credibility as an honest and visionary leader.

Baburam Bhattarai has always excelled, be it his academic life or his political. But winning this election was the easier part, Bhattarai’s real challenge begins tonight. Those 340 votes of support will weigh heavily on him in the coming days.

The Maoists have promised to integrate and rehabilitate their combatants within one and half months. They have also promised to return seized properties and form the Truth and Reconciliation committee and Committee to reveal the identity and status of the Disappeared.

In three days’ time, the second extended tenure of the CA expires. But given the new political developments, it is most likely that the CA will be extended for another three months.

Can Baburam Bhattarai deliver on promises his party has made to people of Nepal? He may have the determination and the roadmap, but the real challenge is to ensure cooperation and compromise among ideologically diverse political constituencies. He needs to work towards the collective goal of institutionalising peace and democracy and give this troubled nation its long-awaited new constitution.

Anurag Acharya

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