Consistency disorder in Dr Baburam Bhattarai

By Bikram Timilsina, Brisbane
28 February 2017

Consistency in thoughts and expression is very crucial in politics; it is the very edifice on which a leader’s statesmanship is built. Consistency defines a politician’s level of honesty and integrity. People’s trust in their leaders depends on how consistent they are in their thoughts and expressions regarding important issues affecting the nation. However,  a major problem with politicians, in particular the ones from the developing countries, is that they mostly lack consistency, even within unchanged circumstances.

In this article, this lack of consistency will be referred to as a “consistency disorder”.

In the particular context of Nepal, there are many politicians whose actions fall within the definition of this disorder. Among them, Dr Baburam Bhattarai stands out as an apt example. Here, I will analyse some instances of consistency disorder exhibited by Dr Bhattarai, with a focus on how he displays inconsistency in his patterns of behaviour on issues of Nepal’s national significance.

Partners in tantrum: Dr Baburam Bhattarai and Madheshi leader Upendra Yadva ink a joint statement following Nepal government’s announcement of local elections.

Announcement of Local Level Election
The Government of Nepal needs to hold three elections – local, provincial and national – by the constitutional deadline of 21 January 2018. It announced on February 20 that the local election will be held on 21 May 2017.

Now, this election announcement is significant for the Himalayan nation, not only because the failure to hold the elections by the deadline will result in a serious constitutional crisis but also because the local bodies have had no elections  since May 1997.

Immediately after this election announcement, Dr Baburam Bhattarai responded with a press note that the elections should rather be held by an all-party government. Despite the fact that he had put forward some conditions for holding the election, his demand of forming the all-party government in order to hold the elections meant that he welcomed the election announcement.

The very next day, however, he demanded the withdrawal of local polls in a joint press statement signed together with Upendra Yadav, the leader of Federal Socialist Forum. This move came right after Mr Yadav returned from New Delhi.

Going a step further opposite to what he had said the day after the elections were announced, Dr Bhattarai called for all agitating political groups to launch a united mass movement against the election announcement. He, however, did not clarify in the statement why he had demanded the formation of the all-party government to hold elections in a press note the previous day if he was shortly going to call for the withdrawal of the same polls.

Did he not know the previous day that he was going to vehemently speak against the scheduled local polls and in support of the united mass movement the very next day? Why did he not think about what he spoke only a day earlier in support of the election when he was actively resisting the slated elections the next day? Why did he disregard his own judgment and expression so soon without any real change in circumstances? I will talk about his possible motives behind this later in the article but for now I would only call it Dr Bhattarai’s “consistency disorder’, and move to the next case. 

His stand on CK Raut
In 2014, Dr Bhattarai accused Nepal government of making a serious mistake by arresting Dr CK Raut, the leader of a separatist movement in the southern plains districts of Nepal. He had also called for his immediate release at the time. Three weeks ago, however, he not only said that the state should never tolerate any secessionist activities but also asked the Government to bring Dr Raut’s separatist movement under control.  ‘No state can tolerate separatist activities’, he clearly said in a Facebook post. ‘As Mr Raut’s transgression is going beyond a limit, he must be taken into control’.

When his two-year-old tweet demanding the release of Dr Raut recently went viral after he spoke against  him, he defended his position by arguing that the contexts before and after the constitution promulgation were different, and he was therefore right on both  occasions. What has happened in the last two years that forced Dr Bhattarai to turn himself upside down regarding the government’s treatment of Dr Raut and his movement? Nothing.

Is there any change in Dr Bhattarai’s political orientation? Is there any alteration in Dr Raut’s movement? Or is there any change in the context to make Dr Bhattarai believe something that he vehemently opposed two years ago? The answer to all of these questions would be a ‘NO’. And, this disproves Dr Bhattarai’s above argument.

He belonged to the Prachanda-led Maoist party in 2014 while he leads the Naya Shakti Nepal party at the moment. Though he is believed to have gone far from the communist ideology that he followed for years, no clear sign of a shift in his plans and programmes has been witnessed until now. At least there is nothing that has changed so far that must alter his views towards the state’s treatment of  Dr Raut. Neither is there any change in Dr Raut’s mission and beliefs ever since. So what changed Dr Bhattarai when there is no fundamental change in the context of the issue is a crucial question.

He gave a flabby reason that his two opposing positions are caused by two different contexts – before and after the constitution promulgation. How can it be a valid reasoning that anyone involved in secessionist activities should not be arrested while the constitution drafting process is in progress and that he or she must be put in jail after the constitution has been issued? Accusing the ‘context’ in vague terms to unjustly justify oneself is nothing but an expression of dishonesty. Another instance of “consistency disorder”.

Dr Bhattarai attempted to justify himself to have been right two years ago when he had said that Dr Raut should not have been arrested. The former prime minister says he is also right today in asking the government to arrest Dr Raut in order to bring his secessionist activities under control. He would be correct in both the contexts if there were a provision of a right to secede in the previous constitution and if the same was banned in the current one. As this is not the case, he has failed to convince the people that he was right in both of his assertions. This shows how Dr Bhattarai is losing his honesty and credibility due to his trait of consistency disorder.

In addition to his demand for Raut’s release, he had also tried to legitimise Dr Raut’s movement in 2014 by inviting him to the meeting of the constitutional committee that he headed. If asked, Dr Bhattarai may try some other readymade reasons, but it will hardly be possible for him to convince Nepali people on the need of inviting a leader of an anti-constitutional movement to the meeting of the constitutional committee.

Dr Bhattarai will never be able to convince the mass on the need of Dr Raut’s participation in that constitutional committee meeting in 2014 and then jailing him in 2017 – given the fact that  Dr Raut’s demands and activities have remained unchanged. Whereas Dr Raut’s demands and activities remain intact, why did Dr Bhattarai have to change his views towards him? It is because of his trait of consistency disorder. The politicians who think that they are smart enough to tell lies to people and that they can persuade anyone in the way they like possess some form of this disorder.

And usually there is “something” that this disorder is motivated by.

What is behind consistency disorder in Dr Bhattarai?
The underlying reasons behind Dr Bhattarai’s consistency disorder are his opportunist instinct and his alignment with the Indian establishment.

Dr Bhattarai has repeatedly expressed that the main intent behind the Maoist Civil War was drafting a constitution through a directly elected Constituent Assembly (CA). However, he himself chose to dissolve the first CA in 2012 when he was the Prime Minister. When the constitution was finally promulgated in 2015, he was one of the most disgruntled leaders in the Nepali political arena.

India was not only unwelcome to the move but it also imposed an unofficial border blockade on Nepal for six months following the constitution promulgation. Dr Bhattarai followed India’s path by going against the constitution he signed as a member of the CA. Within days of the constitution promulgation, he resigned from the UCPN Maoist party to form a new political party named Naya Shakti Nepal, naya being “new” in English. People so far have found nothing “new” in this youngest political party of Nepal.

Instead of trying to resolve the issues of disagreement, the motive behind dissolving the CA and announcing the election for the same is hard to decipher. Signing the constitution as a member of the CA and raising voice against the same constitution from the very next day is hard to understand. This is, however, exactly what Dr Bhattarai has done. It is hard to believe that he did all this by listening to his conscience or as per the need of the nation. He was instead guided by the Indian establishment’s motive of creating instability in Nepal. I do not believe that Dr Bhattarai is motivated to harm Nepal. Neither do I hold that he is working in Nepal as an agent of foreign forces. However, his actions have definitely benefitted those foreign forces that want instability in Nepal. And, his motive of rising to political power and making his position stronger in the Nepalese politics is his personal drive. For this, Dr Bhattarai has knowingly or unknowingly aligned himself with the interests of neighbouring India.

Talking about his former position within the Maoist party, although he was for long the second-in-command in  the party, it is not that he never tried to win the party chairmanship. It was not for nothing that he failed in his bid to become the boss of the Maoist party. Hefailed to achieve his objective due to his lack of organizational and leadership tact and skills, compared to that of Prachanda. When he concluded that he would not be able to acquire leadership of the Prachanda-led Maoist party as soon as he wanted, he formed a new party that he leads now. Due to his close ties with Indian establishment, it was hard for him to justify his lingering position within the Maoist party that went against the Indian establishment’s sentiment by supporting the constitution promulgation in 2015. He was also openly asked by some of the Madheshi leaders to resign from his party and be a part of the agitation.

This whole scenario shows that Dr Bhattarai went against his own stated political dream. As argued earlier, the motive behind his resentment against the constitution promulgation is hard to comprehend. Equally complicated is his resignation from his party at the time when it had been successful to achieve one of the most important goals it originally aimed for. Both cases reveal that he was able to take such unexpected turns only because he could be so inconsistent in his judgment when it was about securing his own political interests.

It seems he is ready to do anything, say anything for achieving his political goals. As Naya Shakti Nepal is not faring up to his expectations, he is confused about what to do next to win public support. Though holding three levels of elections in less than a year is a significant part of the constitution implementation, Dr Bhattarai’s maneuvers are pitted against it because he does not seem confident about fighting elections under the current circumstances.

It seems he wants to lead some sort of mass movement against the state in the name of certain ethnic groups so that he would earn some legitimacy with which he perhaps hopes to fight the elections. No matter how hard it is for the nation, if it fails to implement the constitution within the constitutional deadline, Dr Bhattarai seems committed to make his and his party’s position stronger before the election. As he has not been able to gather broader support from the public yet, he wants to win the hearts of those who are dissatisfied with the current mainstream political parties. His continued alignment with some ethnicity-based groups and Madhesi parties reveal the same opportunist path that Dr Bhattarai is recently walking.

In this walk of his political undertaking too, Dr Bhattarai is walking India’s way. He is backing up those groups that India has consistently supported in Nepal. Though he is following the footsteps of Indian establishment in Nepal in order to foster his own political benefits, it is not going to benefit Nepal because India does not find itself secured in Nepal when this Himalayan nation is peaceful and prosperous Dr Bhattarai’s current moves are therefore against peace and prosperity of Nepal.

India has always been supporting the political groups in Nepal that fight against the state mechanism. In fact, India’s role has been to prepare two strong opposing forces within Nepal so that it can take benefit of instability caused by the internal conflict. It has been true since the time of Rana regime in Nepal.

India believes that it can make Nepal do anything as per its interests when Nepal is weak and divided. India has therefore been working for long to make Nepal a fragile state. It has successfully used the leaders of the mainstream political parties  to this end.

It is very unfortunate for Nepal that an educated and veteran political leader like Dr Bhattarai is among them, a leader who is promoting the Indian interests in Nepal both directly and indirectly. This interesting blend of interests of India, his own and that of his party has given birth to a consistency disorder in him. His future actions and treatment arising out of this disorder will shape his future political career. It is very unfortunate that it will also have some impact on Nepal’s future paths.

The writer holds a Master of International Studies from University of Queensland.

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