June 19, 2012
On Monday, Baburam Bhattarai, Nepal’s Maoist prime minister, flew to Brazil at a time when the country is reeling from serious political and constitutional upheaval.
Bhattarai’s reason for flying to South America was to attend the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – the Rio +20 Summit, to be held from June 20-22.
By going to Rio, Bhattarai has ignored his own party’s order not to make foreign visits because such a move is not in keeping with the situation in Nepal and plays into the hostilities of opposition parties.
But by Monday, Bhattarai may have come to regard his own party as one component of the opposition.
On Sunday, the Mohan Baidhya-led faction of the Maoists decided to float a new party after declaring that “Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai together have compromised on the objectives of the Revolution, and betrayed the Peoples Liberation Army by disarming and handing them over to the Nepal Army,” and that they had become “Red-traitors.”
Baidhya, who is vice chairman of the Maoists, announced that his new split-ist party will be called “Nepal Communists Party-Revolutionary”. In his 21-page document, charting out the new party’s future, Baidhya also re-affirmed his hostility toward Prachanda, which began openly last year when he accused Prachanda of swindling “billions of rupees” meant for combatants in different cantonments.
On Monday evening, Baidhya's three-day-meeting concluded. Senior leaders who sided with Baidhya to set up a new party include many stalwarts of the Maoist movement — Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’, C P Gajurel, Dev Gurung and Netra Bikram Chand ‘Biplab’. The new party will have a 44-member central committee; its new leadership structure is yet to be decided.
The prime minister’s escape to Rio was not a smooth one. Hundreds of protesters demanding his resignation attacked his motorcade with stones and clashed with riot police. At least two security vehicles were damaged.
Given Nepal’s economy, Bhattarai’s Rio-junket-entourage is excessive – 24 according to the latest count. Members include Bhattarai’s wife, Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha, Minister for Environment Keshav Man Shakya, Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commisison Dipendra Bahadur Chettri, the Foreign Secretary, a secretary from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), the Secretary of the Ministry of Forest and Soil Conversation, Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and five joint secretaries.
The Chief of Protocol, two journalists—one from Nepal TV and another from the Rastriya Samachar Samiti—and two security personnel of the PM, Nepal’s Permanent Representative to the UN Gyan Chandra Acharya, his two junior officials and Nepali Ambassador to Brazil PB Shah and his deputy are also included in the list.
And who is footing the bill?
The state coffers, according to government officials. Giving this the best possible spin, Bhattarai’s political adviser Devenfra Poudel told the media that the prime minister would also be meeting “leaders” from India, China, the US, and Europe “on the sidelines” about Nepal’s political situation.
It will be interesting to see which international “leaders” Bhattarai actually meets, although one can make a fairly educated guess that they will fall into the B-Team category, at best.
In the meantime, back home, far away from the sandy shore of Ipanema, Nepal has just been singled out by Foreign Policy Magazine in this month’s “Failed States” issue as in “critical” condition.