Nepali Times Asian Paints
By The Way
The last lap


When I met Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in July last year in Patna for a special on Bihar for this newspaper, he told me how he was criticised in the beginning for his party's alliance with the Hindu-right BJP, and his inability to deal with poverty and Naxalism.

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.

Read also:
Self-righteous violence

1. Kanchan Khanal
I highly appreciate your interview questions and what you were able to yank out of the Prime Minister. But to compare Nitish Kumar with Bhattarai is little off the mark. I most certainly think Dr. Baburam doesn't come the same realm and the quarters Nitish Kumar comes from. Bhattarai in his past glory days had authorized the attacks on Army Barrack, the Police posts and government offices. He, himself has lead many People's war into death and destruction. Therefore, he know such extremities to have his way. Nitish Kumar on his part has always accepted the Democratic way of progress. He uses real political changes for enrichment of every lives. Just Saying Yo!!

2. K. K. Sharma

Is this an idication of Nepal moving from Maoism to Nitishism ? You should have asked a direct question to BRB baje, whether hes is now converted to Nitishbad. 

3. ushaft
C'mon Mr. Acharya. It is difficult to find if you are joking or if you are serious. I think you should write for the "Backside" column instead- you do a better job than the Ass.

I have commented on your piece and interview here. I'll write a few more things here too:

Of course BRB will sound sometimes like Nitish Kumar, sometimes like BP Koirala, and sometimes even like Adam Smith. Usually he sounds like Stalin and I bet that is when he likes it the most. That is what he has idolized all his life and dreamt of becoming.

Your logic that being on a guest panel of some program makes a person sound like the host is as stupid as it can be. If one wants, there are enough examples to learn from, without even visiting or meeting the person. Nitish Kumar has been in office for a long time, several parts of India have been developing by a lot in recent decades and BRB was living there during that very time. He chose to imitate the Naxalite movement of the yesteryear, the Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap from the post second-world war era and thought the way of Bengal or was the way forward for Nepal. That is how he has shaped his life, brain and aims. That is what he has been waiting for all his life. And you say that by visiting a place and meeting a person, he becomes him. Haha.

And was the "PhD" before the "Prime Minister" really required in the third paragraph there? Minendra Rijal also has a PhD, so has Narayan Khadka; Prakash Chandra Lohani is a PhD, a SLC topper and a UCLA graduate. There are people who are better qualified but have never complained as much as BRB that their qualification has not been recognized. They have not waged useless wars to prove the worth of their PhDs. A prime minister can do very well without a PhD too and learning from Nitish Kumar certainly does not require it.

To me, it seems you are only boot-licking.

4. Bemused
@ushaft: And whose boot are you licking exactly? When people run out of arguments , they get personal and expose their pseudo intellect like some of the wannabe 'i know all' anal-ists around here. Common, u think people dont know who runs ? By what credibility do you question other's politics, when you hide behind shadow and do yours ? You don't even have (u know wat) to come out in the open and say what your politics is.
By the way, Nice blog:
 Why shouldn't people ask whose boots you lick now? You probably praise or flag  just to satisfy ur ego,and say 'hehe, clever me', huh? But this is a public space, have respect for differing views and maintain a minimum decency while expressing yours.
And oh, next time you decide to write flowery tribute to right-wingers, don't forget to hail ur idols. I bet you are sad, Modi did not make it this time. But don't worry, go to Kamal Thapa with your credentials and be assured about 'your future'.

5. ushaft
#4 Bemused (Anurag ?):
Sorry if I sounded harsh. Life as a professional writer is not easy. If nobody told it to you, I think this advice is going to help you. You should not compare yourself with people (like me) who write as a hobby. You have chosen a career of a public commentator- you should be more ready to accept the benefits and pitfalls that come along with it. My blog is my personal place and there is no need for me to write there according to my "principles" or your likings.

You also seem to need to improve on other areas. First, being a rightist is perfectly legal, ethical, moral and acceptable. There's nothing to be ashamed about it. Second, judging me by my writing is equal to judging a woman by her clothes: you may be right, you may be wrong, but you certainly will be stupid. I am not a political animal- I do not write with a "political mission" like you do.

Read your comment again- it is very childish, uncivilized and immature. Yes, I respect your opinion, and have presented my differences. If you can, reply with your defense.

Maybe you took the "boot-licking" sentence a little too literally- but thats what it was for: to provoke you, and you fell prey for it. Like people like you always do :)

6. Nirmal
It seems that no one feels the need to have to explain how the entire civil society of Nepal is going to do the overall calculation of the whole peace process. To do the sums of exactly which democratic strength we could get back again and which are the values democratically established that we will never recover again, all in name of a logical conclusion of the peace process we the people of Nepal will have to bear the price prohibitively expensive. We(it means you, me and all the pundits of Nepal) wanted to mainstream the murderers and terrorists, but have you ever imagined at what price? Please analyze it, your help will be invaluable for our generation and for the coming generation as I can see that this generation of hunekhaneka and janebujheka just runs instinctively after the day to day fashion, a loose generation perhaps. The compromises we are doing could make the Nepali democracy more miserable than it is already now.

Now, If you ask my opinion --and many could think that I'm against -- on "the peace process", personally I'd prefer that this savage of so called politics stop killing each other once for all and behave as humans because a democrat would find any unexpected loss of life very hurtful. 

7. Nabin Raj
#5 ushaft
Looking at the discussion above, it feels to me like you are acting too low. If you want your voice to be on upper hand, write your own (opinion) piece instead of ranting on others' write up. Fighting on comment box doesn't worth much. Anyways, #4 Bemused has publicized your blog, you should be thankful to him for increased hits in your blog.

8. Gopal Rai
Anurag is comparing apples to oranges. Let it be known to all that BRB is murderer. The Maoist Party is filled with criminals and violent individuals. The name Mao itself is associated with the killings of millions of people. Let BRB renounce violence. quit the Maoist and absolve himself first. Anurag, you need to stop patronizing the killers of Nepalis.  

9. Binu
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.

Exactly. A brief look in the performance of former governments adequately proves it.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)