Burden of achieving peace and unity now falls to Nepal’s new Maoist prime minister
Baburam Bhattarai was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Nepal on Aug. 29 in Kathmandu.
The Maoist party, the largest party in the strong 601 member Constituent Assembly (CA), has alienated almost all political forces and now faces the task of collaborating with those forces to complete the peace agreement and constitution drafting processes.
Most immediately, the Maoists will have to offer a compromise on the future of their combatants in a way that is agreeable to the other parties, and dissent over their recent proposal on integration and the handing over of arms needs to be addressed.
The term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) that has already been extended twice, is set to expire on Aug. 31, before which his government will have to reach an agreement with other political parties to extend it. The CA was tasked to draft a new constitution which is merely becoming a Herculean task for the parties.
The completion of the peace process includes the integration and rehabilitation of 19,000 former Maoist fighters. This challenge, involving the nation’s security agencies, is a tall order for the new prime minister.
The new Maoist-led government will thus be judged by its ability to engender unity and consummate the peace process, a test failed by its predecessors.
Nepal’s Parliament elected the senior Maoist leader on Aug. 28 followed by the administration of the oath of office by the President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav at a closed ceremony the following day. Senior political leaders, including the outgoing Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, heads of diplomatic missions, security agencies and senior government officials were in attendance.
Congratulatory messages have been received from the governments of India, China, the U.S., Japan and other nations.
Bhattarai is the Vice Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), otherwise known as UCPN- Maoist. He is widely recognized for his political and intellectual activism with a decade of experience in underground politics gathered during the 1996- 2006 insurgency.
In the first ever Nepali Constituent Assembly elections held in April 2008, he was elected from Gorkha constituency no. 2 and served as Finance Minister in the subsequently-formed Maoist government led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal. An alumnus of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Dr Bhattarai has a PhD degree in Regional Development Planning.