This is a silly question. Everybody knows him. He is the ‘Right Honorable Prime Minister’ of Nepal. This is precisely the reason why this question is raised. As an individual, what he does is not our concern so long as that does not infringe societal relationship. As a Prime Minister what he does in that capacity is very much our concern because his every action affects every Nepali as each of us is interwoven in the collective expression of ‘we the nation’. Thus, as the prime Minister, he enters into a contract with the people to safeguard their interest. Alternatively, he is entrusted with the responsibility to preserve the sensibility of this nation.
Here comes the question: who is Baburamji? Ms Pampha Bhusal, who fought together with him in the ten years long people’s war for a socialist state, has recently described him thus: “Baburamji was born to serve India.” I don’t buy it. To be anti India is not being nationalist either. This will only ferment blind nationalism. A nationalist is just pro Nepal.
Ram Bahadur Badal, the spine of the Maoist’s military force during the insurgency has come up with another outpour, “Prachandaji and Baburamji are trying to become Hitlers.” I don’t buy it either. This kind of hyperbolic expression could be primarily because they are now friends turned foes after the split of the Maoist party on June 19, 2012.
To be Hitler is not easy. It is beyond Prachanda or Baburamji’s capability. Prachanda did try hard once to sell his fusion of Jung Bahadur and Buddha but in vain. A reject from army and fine art school, and thus a street boy selling paintings for two bowels a day like some of our boys in Basantapur area, Hitler rose to become the Chancellor in 1933 of the Third Reich with his ‘hypnotic’ charm, heading a coalition government. He subverted the Weimer Constitution of 1920, perhaps the best in the world then, became a fascist fuhrer and thrust the world into World War II in 1939. He is the devil but if we want to give the devil its due, then we must say that he became Hitler by harnessing the indigenous strength of Germany. He rose to the position in just thirteen years from the scratch and remained in the position for twelve years. But nothing was through external blessings.
The question that is engulfing Baburamji is the question of external blessings. He was certainly not born to serve India, the way Ms Bhusal has made the full throttle onslaught against him. But this has given birth to question his decisions. The recent one in the series is his decision of awarding the management of Nepal’s only international airport Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) to Infrastructure Leasing and Services Limited (IL&FS). This is precisely here that people are asking the question: is this becoming of our Prime Minister?
Now it is all overt as the myth is torn apart like the sunny day after the long monsoon downpour. That is: Prachanda became the Prime Minister as the culmination of 12-point agreement almost in the similar way Mohan Shumsher became one after the Delhi Compromise. The major difference is the mode of transmission and the time lag as the world has changed enough within the two periods of history. Prachanda was thrown in the similar way as he crossed the parameters set for him. A lost Madhav Nepal on all political fronts could have never dreamt of becoming the Prime Minister had it not been the external blessings. To have enough number to make him the PM, the major Madesh based party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum was broken. Upendra Yadav can vouch the best.
In this sequence, Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai’s turn came. Thus, he is the Prime Minister of our country since August 29, 2011. When the nation becomes weak and loses its indigenous strength the way Nepal is losing, external interference increases in the name of security and economic interest of the stronger power to extract the resources and dump its manufactured goods. This is the edited version of colonial exploitation in the new package of Panchsheel that, among the five, includes noninterference in the domestic matters. The stronger nations have never adhered to these five restrains. Thus, it is an inverse relationship and the increase is almost proportional. This is precisely what is happening in Nepal in the name of Nepalese people, in the name of strengthening existing friendly relations, and in the name of foreign investment for the prosperity of Nepal.
India wanted investment protection. Baburamji abided by it and thus got Nepal in signing the Bilateral Investments Protection and Promotion Agreements (BIPPA) on October 21, 2011 during his official visit to India. In the same visit, he clandestinely agreed towards handing over TIA management to an Indian company. BIPPA did raise strong resentment but not to the extent of TIA now. Thus, it has brought this sequential matter into focus. The question inside the mind of the emerging educated middle class, whom I have always described as the prime mover in terms of shaping public opinion, is: where is Baburamji’s loyalty when it comes to the continuity of his Prime Ministerial life? It is this that has caused so much of public furor. Lets us go a little further into it.
IL&FS is primarily a Government of India’s undertaking. Its promoters-Central Bank of India, Housing Development Finance Corporation and Unit Trust of India - are all government undertakings. The other shareholders now are Life Insurance Corporation of India, another governmental organization, Orix and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority. Orix is the financial services group of Japan and the other is the governmental investment fund of the United Arab Emirates.
Foreign investment is much needed and thus welcome in Nepal. To this end, we even have our Foreign Investment Board. But it is for us to decide where such investment should flow in line with our plan, priorities and national sensibilities. This is precisely the reason why we need to indentify such projects and seek foreign investment. It is not something ad hock and should not be based on whims, fancies and personal requirement of the Prime Minister.
The pertinent question is why this TIA matter was not made public for nine months despite the fact that we have the law that guarantees our right to information. It came to light only when a national daily disclosed. Does it come under the Prime Minister’s prerogative or can a Prime Minister hide it this way or is it a classified project? What was he waiting for so long? We have our bidding process and financial act. Why were not they followed? Instead, he opted a ‘grafting technique’, meaning keeping low while assessing the situation only to give a full thrust at the ‘right’ moment. His behavior and the questions emanating thus, have raised enough doubts on his credibility.
Now, couples of businessmen and journalists alike are talking about investment and the job that Nepalese people will get out of TIA handover. What a lopsided argument as if anybody were against the foreign investment. Everybody knows this much that every investment will create job and increase income. This goes without saying. Being a student of economics, even I know this much of economics. But what kind of investment are we looking for? What is the conditionality? In what way it is related to our plan? Why were we being kept in dark? Should the businessmen also be engaged in polemic the way Mahakali Treaty was defended on the ground of billions of dollars will be pouring inside Nepal? Not a penny has come so far.
That the Supreme Court has issued notice to Baburam Bhattarai to explain why interim order is not to be issued on TIA’s handover is a matter of great relief. It will be clear now. The government that has not decided it but has been slowly and steadily moving towards it since nine months with a decided mind will have to say now that it is all false, fabricated, ill intentioned and what not. This is how one can conclude while judging the official reaction lately. The operative part is there has to be a full stop in it.
Baburamji is just one among us with the sole difference that he is now entrusted to safeguard our interest. If he fails to do so, then we have the right to question who is Baburam?