Former Nepal Prime Minister and Maoist spearhead Baburam Bhattarai at his Sanepa residence in south Kathmandu on Friday. Picture by Sankarshan Thakur
Kathmandu, Aug. 1: An unlikely constituency awaits to embrace India’s pracharak Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his arrival here at the weekend: Nepal’s Maoists, the Reds ready to run with Saffron with a gusto that could draw remark on both sides of the soft fence.
“We are aware of his (Modi’s) Hindutva moorings and his RSS background, of course, but we want to view him as a new-generation, development-oriented leader,” former Nepali Prime Minister and Maoist spearhead Baburam Bhattarai told The Telegraph in an exclusive conversation this evening.
“We think he is an assertive and dynamic man, he could change the way we work. His leadership qualities have become apparent from the manner in which he has risen in his own party, outflanking all others. I much look forward to meeting him.”
Through the interview Bhattarai appeared keen to underplay Modi’s controversial past and political background and sought to foreground the “new potential” he represented for South Asia.
“Modi symbolises a new phase in the politics of the region and we are hoping his arrival will usher a new beginning in ties if not a complete break from the past. The Maoists in Nepal represent new politics, new aspirations and new ways of working, which is why we are keen to see how Modi can take things ahead,” Bhattarai said.
The Maoist leader’s investment of good faith and tiding in an ideologically adverse Indian leader could well be a deft manoeuvre against Nepal’s own Rightwing-monarchist complex, which has traditionally been close to the Sangh parivar.
Since Modi’s election as Prime Minister, sidelined royalists have felt encouraged to lobby New Delhi on ditching Nepal’s slow but sure advances on republicanism and effect a counter-revolution of sorts: a “Hindutva government” in India, they have goaded themselves to believe, is surely the platform for a return to the “Hindu Kingdom”.
However licentious their aspiration and effort, Bhattarai thought it was nothing to ignore. His counsel to Modi against encouraging monarchists came out as sharp as his welcome to him was effusive.
“Any attempt to bring the monarchy back will plunge Nepal in chaos because that will not only nullify the gains of the people’s movement but also thwart new popular aspiration. I am sure Modi understands a chaotic Nepal is not in India’s enlightened self-interest,” Bhattarai said.
“If Modi understands Nepal and the region and has been properly briefed, he will do nothing that disrupts our journey to becoming a federal, democratic republic.”
Asked if the unrelieved deadlock in writing the constitution --- Nepal’s mainstream parties failed to agree through the term of the first Constituent Assembly and a second one had to be elected in November last year ---- itself posed a danger to republican-democratic Nepal, Bhattarai winced, then agreed.
And what he said was partly to alarm his own comrades and mainstream peer parties into cutting the drift and hastening an agreement on the new constitution.
“This delay can either force us to agree, or, you are right, it could provoke a counter-revolution which will defeat our gains, at least temporarily.”
But even the scheme of Bhattarai’s portentous prophecy of counter-revolution does not imagine a role for Nepali royalists fostered and fielded by the shadowy deposed king, Gyanendra.
“The royalists are too few to effect such a counter revolution; what may happen is on the lines of what happened in Egypt or Thailand, an arrangement effected by the armed forces and the judiciary in collusion. But I ask again, will such a situation serve India’s national interests? I think New Delhi and Modi have a fair understanding of what is good for them, for Nepal and the region,” Bhattarai argued.
Bhattarai contemptuously laughed off the persisting suspicions in the Indian establishment that the Maoists may feel frustrated enough to do a U-turn to arm themselves.
“I am the one who as Prime Minister settled the armed struggle question and committed ourselves to multi-party democracy. Let nobody suspect we will go back, but let nobody believe either that we will give up on our social and political reform agenda. On that there shall be no compromise.”