KATHMANDU: The Parliament today elected Dr Baburam Bhattarai, vice-chairman of the Unified CPN-Maoist, new prime minister with the support of United Democratic Madhesi Front, an alliance of five Madhes-based parties.
Dr Bhattarai is the 35th Prime Minister of the country and the fourth PM after country was declared federal democratic republic in 2008. He will be sworn in by the President on Monday.
Dr Bhattarai secured 340 votes out of 594 in the Constituent Assembly. His only rival and
vice-president and parliamentary party leader of the Nepali Congress, Ramchandra Paudel, won 235 votes.
Paudel was backed by CPN-UML, Rastriya Prajatantra Party, Rastriya Janshakti Party, CPN-ML and independent CA member Baban Singh. A total of 575 CA members were present during the voting.
After being elected, Dr Bhattarai said his administration’s priorities would be to conclude the peace process, draft a new constitution within the extended term of CA and to provide relief to people.
The Maoist party has pledged that major tasks of peace process will be completed within 45
days. UDMF has 70 seats in the 601-member constitution-drafting body.
“We can ensure political stability and lead the country towards prosperity if we put our efforts together,” Dr Bhattarai said.
Addressing the Parliament, Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal said his party fielded Dr Bhattarai as consensus candidate to conclude the peace and constitution-drafting processes.
Dahal said as the largest political force in the CA, his party was ready to shoulder the responsibility. Dr Bhattarai said his party would try its best to convert the majority government into a consensus one.
NC candidate Paudel congratulated Bhattarai and said his party would play the role of a constructive opposition.
“I hope Bhattarai will be able to fulfil the commitment to conclude the peace process,” he said.
Congratulating Dr Bhattarai, CA Chairman Subas Chandra Nembang said a majority government has come in place though parties had promised to form a unity government. “I hope that the government will be able to complete the peace and constitution-drafting processes on time,” Nembang said.
Although Nembang had directed the lawmakers not to be absent or stay neutral during voting,
as many as 16 CA members were absent.
Five members of the Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party boycotted the election, saying both candidates lacked policies to address the woes of people.
RPP-N parliamentary party leader Chandra Bahadur Gurung had sent a letter to the CA chairman stating four members of his party would be absent during voting. Others who failed to turn up were Maoist CA member Salikram Jamakattel, who is undergoing treatment at Norvic Hospital, Gunakhar Basyal and Bishwonath Agrawal of Janata Dal United and Navodita Chaudhary of RPP. Agrawal and Chaudhary are out of country.
Likewise, Naradmuni Rana of UML and Shiv Pujan Ray of MJF-Nepal were also absent as they are at large following their involvement in passport forgery.
The vote cast by NC’s Kamala Sharma was declared invalid as she used tick mark instead of her signature, according to parliament secretariat.
Journey to power
Born to a lower middle class peasant family on June 18, 1954, in Belbas, Khoplang VDC, Gorkha district, Dr Baburam Bhattarai’s journey to country’s top post was never a smooth one.
His candidacy for country’s 35th Prime Minister was confirmed after months of manoeuvering within the party.
Many people had begun to doubt Bhattarai’s obsession with restructuring in the party.
He was instrumental in drawing party Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal to the agenda of peace and constitution by abandoning the idea of revolt. He also managed to overcome threats posed by Mohan Baidhya faction to topple Prachanda’s leadership.
Party leaders say Bhattarai’s success as new PM would depend on how Dahal cooperates with him as the Mohan Baidhya faction can abandon him anytime.
Dahal played vital role in bringing Bhattarai to front, but it was Dahal himself who tormented him the most, especially during final days of the People’s war.
Still, during today’s election, both Dahal and vice-chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha showered Bhattarai with praise.
Son of Bhoj Prasad Bhattarai and Dharma Kumari Bhattarai started his political career as he began attending anti-monarchy activities of banned political parties after the coup of 1960.
In 1977, he became the founder president of All India Nepalese Students Association. In 1980, he was arrested for the first time while showing black flag against King Birendra during his visit to New Delhi.
In 1981, Bhattarai became member of the Communist Party of Nepal through Mohan Bikram Singh. Subsequently, he became active in organising
migrant Nepali workers in India through All India Nepalese Unity Society (1979-1986).
Completing his formal education, he returned to Nepal in 1986 and became full-time party cadre and activist. He was arrested twice, in 1986 and 1988.
During the anti-Panchayat people’s movement of 1990, Bhattarai was the central spokesperson of United National People’s Movement, a coalition of CPN (Masal), CPN (Mashal), Proletarian Labour Organisation and other left groups.
During the People’s War, he remained underground from 1996 to 2006, and led revolution on different fronts.
In 2003, he led the Negotiating Team of CPN (Maoist) for peace talks. He is widely acknowledged as one of the architects of the Joint People’s Movement of 2006 and as key negotiator of Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in November 2006.