Volume 3, Number 3 (2010)

Baburam Bhattarai: Critique and Appreciation

Richard Peet

Clark University

Baburam Bhattarai was born into a middle- peasant family in Belbas, Gorka Province, Nepal. Bhattarai excelled at school and, with a Colombo Plan scholarship in hand, studied architecture and planning in India. By the early 1980s, the theoretical structure of spatial and regional planning studies had changed, in a Marxist direction. Bhattarai wrote his doctoral dissertation at the Centre for Study of Regional Development, at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, finishing in 1986 – JNU was one of the main Third World centers of political-theoretical ferment. While a student, Bhattarai was president of the All India Nepalese Students Association on its founding in 1977. He joined the illegal Communist Party of Nepal (Masal) in the early 1980s. Returning to his native Nepal in 1986, he was spokesperson for the United National People’s Movement during the 1990 uprising there and, from 1991, was Coordinator of the United People’s Front Nepal, the legal arm of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Centre), which in turn gave birth in 1995 to the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M). Bhattarai served prominently in the Peoples’ War 1996-2006, and became de facto second in command, with Pushpa Kamal Daha (“Prachanda”) as Chairman of the Party. At the conclusion of the war, a Comprehensive Peace Accord was signed between the Government of Nepal and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) on November 21, 2006, with the CPN(M) taking part in the government, the People’s Liberation Army put in temporary cantonments and the Royal Nepal Army confined to barracks, under supervision by a United Nations Mission in Nepal. Bhattarai was chair of the committee writing the CPN(M)’s Commitment Paper for the Constituent Assembly Election held on the 10th of April, 2008. Elected from the Gorkha Constituency-2 (Central West Nepal), Bhattarai served as Minister of Finance in the resulting coalition government until May, 2009 when Prachandra resigned as Prime Minister, and what was now the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) became the main opposition to a 22-party coalition government led by Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist Leninist–CPN(UML)). He is now Vice Chairperson and senior Standing Committee Member of the Politburo of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).