KATHMANDU, August 26: Former Maoist leader and ex-prime minister Baburam Bhattarai’s dream of establishing a new political force in the country has weakened within just two years of the formation of his Naya Shakti party.
The party was officially launched with much fanfare in Kathmandu in July last year, with economic prosperity as its main focus.
Breaking 20 years of partnership with Pushpa Kamal Dahal two years ago, Bhattarai formed the new party under his own leadership. It comprised some leaders from Dahal’s CPN (Maoist Center) and some independent personalities. But most of the former have now returned to Maoist Center even before Naya Shakti could convene its first general convention.
As many as 15 Naya Shakti leaders including Devendra Paudel, Bam Dev Chhetri, Kumar Paudel, Mahendra Paswan, Mukti Pradhan and Pasang Sherpa joined Maoist Center earlier this week, . They accused Bhattarai of failing to bring together various political forces under his leadership to strengthen the party. Paudel and Chhetri had worked closely with Bhattarai for years even before the decade-long Maoist insurgency.
“We quit the party after Bhattarai didn’t heed our demand for wider political alliances to strengthen the party,” Paudel told Republica. “We also saw problems with team building under Bhattarai.”
Earlier, Ram Chandra Jha, Ram Kumar Sharma and a few other Madhesi leaders had severed their ties with Naya Shakti, expressing their discontent with the party leadership. Political analyst Mumaram Khanal quit the party within four months of its launch, stating that hopes of an alternative political force couldn’t be met by Naya Shakti.
Former finance secretary Rameshore Khanal also left Bhattarai’s party. He said he realized that politics was not his forte.
Another party leader, Dev Limbu, quit Naya Shakti after Bhattarai blocked his twitter blog over the party position. At a recent function for joining Maoist Center, a Paudel-led team claimed that over 200 out of the 300 central council members have quit Naya Shakti.
Bhattarai had vowed to establish Naya Shakti as an alternative force, bringing within its fold leaders from all political parties. But he failed to tap leaders from big parties like Nepali Congress (NC) and UML. Also, some civil society members who encouraged Bhattarai and his alternative force turned reluctant when it came to following his lead. They declined to join Naya Shakti, citing various reasons.
And some fresh faces were sidelined after Bhattarai gave more space in Naya Shakti to those joining from among the Maoists.
Bhattarai took the side of the Madhes-based political parties over constitution amendment, without consulting his own party leaders. This also resulted in disgruntlement in the party. Later, Bhattarai held negotiations with the Upendra Yadav-led Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) to merge with it.
But the negotiations couldn’t succeed because of disputes in Yadav’s party. “There were conflicting demands for alliance within Bhattarai’s party. Some were demanding an alliance with Bibeksheel or Sajha and others were for joining up with FSFN.
he party leadership failed to take any decision,” said Naya Shakti leader Khimlal Devkota. Devkota also sees a problem with those joining Naya Shakti. “Some had joined the party to secure positions and power immediately and quit the party after failing to do so,” he said.
After the Election Commission refused election symbols for the fresher parties, Bhattarai decided to forge an electoral alliance with FSFN. But the alliance didn’t yield good results at the local polls. Yadav has decided not to get into an alliance with Bhattarai’s party in the next elections.
After failing to make a good showing in the local elections, disgruntled Naya Shakti leaders flayed Bhattarai’s coordinating role.
Bhattarai is now left with Ganga Shrestha, Devendra Parajuli, Kalpana Dhamala, Dambar Khatiwada, Keshav Dahal and a few other influential leaders. Bibeksheel Sajha Party, the emerging political force, also poses a threat to Naya Shakti as it wanes further. Political pundits have started suggesting that Bhattarai should rejoin the Maoists or dissolve his party and remain an independent. “There is still a chance for an alternative political force. Let’s see who can grab that space,” said Devkota.