Dr Baburam Bhattarai’s dilemma

Kiran Poudel 14 Jul 2023
Dr Baburam Bhattarai’s dilemma File Photo

KATHMANDU: Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, chairman of Nepal Samajbadi Party, is one of the leaders who has been unable to taste success despite his relentless efforts.

Following the promulgation of the constitution in 2015, Bhattarai left the CPN (Maoist Center) with a mission to build an alternative political force in the country. He has tried everything, from forming a new political party to merging with established parties, but success has eluded him. Consequently, he has been forced to come closer to the Maoist Center. But he is uncertain about his next steps as the Maoist Center appears to be ignoring him.

Bhattarai’s political career, which saw him become the finance minister and prime minister as a Maoist Center leader, began to decline after he left the party to pursue an alternative political force. His party, Naya Shakti Nepal, soon became ineffective, forcing him to merge it with Upendra Yadav’s party to form the Sanghiya Samajbadi Party. He joined forces with Yadav, who was involved in Madhes-based politics, in an attempt to pursue identity-based politics. However, Bhattarai realized that identity-based politics would not be sustainable as his relationship with Yadav soured. He was further sidelined in the party after the Sanghiya Samajbadi Party joined forces with Mahantha Thakur.

Unification and splintering have been the defining characteristics of Madhesh-based parties in Nepal. Yadav and Thakur, too, were unable to maintain their political alliance for long, resulting in Thakur and Rajendra Mahato parting ways to form the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party (LSP).

Even after Thakur and Mahato’s exit, Bhattarai did not feel comfortable with Yadav. When party leaders who were dissatisfied with Yadav’s leadership style supported Bhattarai, he began preparing to take control of the party. However, leaders like Ashok Rai and Pradip Yadav ultimately sided with Yadav, leaving Bhattarai out in the cold. Consequently, he left the party.

The former guerrilla leader is now attempting to become active in the political scene by forming the Nepal Samajbadi Party. Interestingly, he has not stopped referring to his party as an alternative force.

In the November 2023 elections, Bhattarai was compelled to form an electoral alliance with the CPN (Maoist Center), the party he left due to ideological differences in 2015. He fielded some leaders in the election using the Maoist Center’s electoral symbol but did not run himself, instead leaving his constituency to Moist Center Chairman Dahal. His party has one member each in the Bagmati Province Assembly and the House of Representatives, with NSP leader Mahindra Yadav serving as the Minister for Water Supply in Dahal’s cabinet.

His relationship with Dahal turned sour after the election. Consequently, Dahal excluded Bhattarai while forming the Socialist Front—a forum conceived by Bhattarai himself!

However, his relationship with Dahal turned sour after the election. Consequently, Dahal excluded Bhattarai while forming the Socialist Front—a forum conceived by Bhattarai himself! The founding members of the Samajbadi Forum are the Maoist Center, CPN (Unified Socialist), Janata Samajbadi Party, and the Biplab-led Nepal Communist Party.

Political leaders say Dahal chose to bypass Bhattarai while forming the Socialist Front due to his differences with Yadav, who is Dahal’s close ally and has supported his government. The deteriorating relationship with Dahal has put Bhattarai in a difficult situation. Maoist Center sources claim that Bhattarai had insisted on becoming the coordinator of the Front which he conceived. However, Dahal and Yadav were not in favor of accepting Bhattarai as the coordinator.

“I was not informed when the Socialist Front was announced. In mid-June, I called Dahal expressing concern about the Socialist Front, and he told me that discussions were underway. However, he announced the front three days later without even informing me,” Bhattarai said. “Dahal is using this front to secure his government. Our plan was to develop it as an alternative force.”

Currently, Bhattarai is busy expanding his party’s organization. The NSP has announced that it will be organizing a six-month campaign starting from July 17 to strengthen the party and expand its presence. Central leaders have been deployed throughout the country.

Bhattarai has not given up hope of forming an alternative force. He has held discussions with Prabhu Sah’s Aam Janata Party, as well as with the LSP. Sah was in Bhattarai’s faction within the Maoist Center before Bhattarai left the party. Although the LSP has not officially declared its intentions regarding joining hands with Bhattarai, party leaders have stated that they are open to forming a political front to safeguard their existence in Madhesh.

Betrayed by Dahal

Bhattarai played a significant role in Dahal’s election to the House of Representatives. He not only vacated his constituency for Dahal but also mobilized his party organization to campaign for him.

Many believe that Bhattarai supported Dahal to establish his daughter Manushi in the political scene. Manushi ran in the November 20 election under the Maoist Center’s electoral symbol in the Kathmandu-7 constituency but was defeated.

Bhattarai is now telling party leaders that despite his wholehearted support for Dahal, Dahal betrayed him.

Although Dahal has appointed Bhattarai’s party leader Mahindra Raya Yadav as a minister in his cabinet, sources say Dahal is not satisfied with his performance.


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