On the night of 3 March 2011, Nepal's former Prime Minister--former Nepali Congress (NC) leader--Krishna Prasad Bhattarai passed away at the age of 87 due to the failure of his heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. His dead body is being cremated on Sunday amidst state honor.
He had remained detached from active politics due to his high level frustration caused by the intra-party feuds and conspiracies within the NC--a party established in 1947. Physically and mentally frail, Bhattarai had declared in 2008 that he no longer had any political relationship with the NC as the party adopted the line of federal republic, collaborating with Maoist rebels.
Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, popularly referred to in short as Kishnunji, differed from the mainstream NC leadership and so was marginalized from the central leadership despite his mention as a senior leader during his heydays.
After his demise, debates are going on as to what to learn and what not to learn from him. It is natural that people begin to ponder a while on the personality and characteristics of a leader, who has recently passed away.
What to learn from Kishnuji
In 1991, Nepal got a constitution more democratic compared to the one followed by the Partyless Panchayat regime in the pre-1990 era. Kishunji, as the Interim Prime Minister of Nepal in 1990, must certainly be remembered for his dedication and hard work regarding the drafting of the new constitution following the collapse of the Panchayat rule in 1990.
Kishunji, an unmarried leader, had no personal greed and ambition. Most of his colleagues have been over-ambitious and greedy, their politics being not more than casino gambles.
He was spiritually inclined to non-violence, which influenced his political philosophy till his last breath.
A belief that massacres and bloodbath cannot transform the society while convincing people's minds and hearts would be a more democratic method is something that the society can learn from Kishunji.
Besides, he is known for his sense of humor. He often cracked jokes not only in informal conversations but also in public speeches. All human beings have their own mental tensions and other painful problems. But a sense of humor can battle hypertension and inconvenience. This is what the society in general can learn from him.
Another important characteristic that one can learn from Kishunji is his communication in laymen's terms. He showed his readiness to communicate with ordinary people.
A quality more worth remembering about him is his simplicity and frankness. People felt easy to communicate with him because of his simple and frank nature.
He dedicated his life to democratic values--whether they are implemented or not needs further detailed discussions with reference to various other factors. Many leaders frequently change their party lines and even ideologies. But Kishnuji did not do so. This was his dedication to his party till the declaration of republic in Nepal.
What not to learn from Kishunji
After his demise, absolutist trends of blind appreciation have appeared on the media. An objective method of analysis is required to understand him more scientifically.
The greatest weakness of Kishunji was that he could not lead his party--NC. He instead surrendered to the bullying of Girija Prasad Koirala within the NC. Even among his own supporters in the party, he surrendered to them though he knew that they were working for their personal gains. This reflects how weak-minded he was. It, therefore, was natural for him to be marginalized within the party.
Similarly, Kishunji was a very loose-tongued person. He greatly lacked public decency. While giving public speeches, he should have maintained the values of public decency. He even cracked sexual jokes against women while giving public speeches. In the name of sense of humor or becoming laymen's leader, he was not expected to do so.
During his prime mastership, people felt that running the government and joking are the same thing in Nepal. Other leaders have worsened national politics at present.
Another thing that one should not learn from Kishnuji is that he lacked the ability to sensitize and educate people on democratic values and norms. Mere advocacy of democratic values in public ceremonies and in talks with journalists can never be considered enough for a leader of Kishunji's stature.
The latest shortcoming of Kishunji is his inability to update his democratic values. He believed in monarchy in the country. He announced his divorce from national politics after the nation adopted the path of federal democratic republic--a line approved by the 99 percent voters in Nepal. Was he more kind-oriented than people-oriented in essence? Or had he lost his ability to analyze the public perspectives? A leader must essentially understand the spirit at grassroots level. His viewpoint on conflicts was not scientific. It was puritanical. This is what one should not learn from him.
Every human being does have certain merits and demerits. Neither blind appreciation nor blind criticism can do us good. One should apply this standard while evaluating others.