He said: "But I did not let these negativities distract me and focused on positives that I could extract out of limited choices I had."
This week, when I interviewed Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in his office, there were moments when he sounded exactly like Nitish Kumar. That may be understandable because Nitish invited Baburam to Patna last month as a chief guest for a conference, and our PhD prime minister seems to have adopted quite a few tips on governance from the Bihar book.
Despite negative op-eds and a growing media backlash, Bhattarai looked unperturbed. The critics, the opposition as well as his own party comrades are baying for his blood. Bhattarai, however, says he is trying to stay focused on his twin goals of peace process and constitution. And he had the look of a man who meant every word.
When Bhattarai took office in August, the peace process was deadlocked and there was general frustration about the protracted transition. Less than a week in office, he convinced the party leadership to hand over weapon containers to the Special Committee which created an environment for a dialogue with the opposition. This resulted in the 7-point MoU on a consensus on the rehabilitation package and the formation of the State Restructuring Commission.
Today, most of the combatants have left cantonments and the Nepal Army is already making preparations to integrate those who remain. For the first time in four years, there is real hope that bills on truth and reconciliation, and disappearance will be passed by the legislature parliament even though it remains to be seen if it will still have the general amnesty clause for Maoists and state security.
The pace of progress may not have impressed Bhattarai's critics, but to be fair to the man, bringing parties with contradicting ideologies and diverging political interests to agree on common grounds was an unenviable task. So far he has proven his worth. There are still criticisms regarding sloppy transfers, leniency towards unruly ministers, coddling cronies accused of human rights violations, and controversial visits by foreign dignitaries. But on the priorities of peace and constitution, he has outdone his predecessors.
This week he has been ensconced in secret meetings with Pushpa Kamal Dahal and moderate second-echelon leaders of the NC and UML to agree on an outline of a political consensus. Now that the Supreme Court has reiterated its refusal to extend its deadline, compromises on integration, state restructuring and form of governance are the only way forward.
On the governance front, the prime minister and the judiciary earned public appreciation after a sitting minister was jailed on corruption charges. Now, the expectations from this government to book the other bad apples have also increased. Bhattarai must make appointments of the commissioners in anti-graft bodies at the earliest to expedite the corruption cases.
Faultlines in the parliamentary system bred instability and corrupt governments in the last decade, which led to growing support for a directly elected executive in the new constitution. This means individuals with personal integrity who are capable of rising above partisan interests and exhibiting statesmanship have brighter future.
Bhattarai has an opportunity to do just that, to steer the nation out of transition by taking all parties into confidence. Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Sushil Koirala and Jhalanath Khanal have a central role to play in this process.
The time for blame games, and taking the quarrel to the media, are long gone. The people have tuned off. It's time our leaders learnt a thing or two from Nitish 'Sushasan Babu' Kumar and focused more of their energy on solving problems, instead of becoming a part of them.