For non-Maoist supporters, Dr Baburam Bhattarai is the favorite among Maoist leaders. For urban population, the brilliant academic record of Bhattarai, a PhD, along with his no-nonsense statements made him the hope in Nepali politics at the time when many thought politics is made dirty by the group of leaders who did nothing more than quarrelling for the post.
If any politician garnered affection and praise from non-party supporters, it was Bhattarai.
Bhattarai justified the hope when he was the finance minister. He succeeded with his ambitious plan for tax collection and was the only ministers in the Maoist-led government who seemed to have put state affairs ahead of party affairs during his tenure.
And, with all that urban population started believing if he becomes the Prime Minister, then there will be something good for nation.
And, Dr Baburam Bhattarai became the Prime Minister in August, 2011. To refuel the public hope, Bhattarai began with some encouraging words and deeds. Although many believed that it was only a publicity stunt, PM Bhattarai chose Nepal made Hulas Mustang as his official vehicle. Some laughed at it; some said it was a repayment for the industrialist but public believed it was a good sign.
Then there were other ‘publicity stunts’: PM with Citizen radio program where he replied public query live on national radio, the Hello Sarkar project where people could directly contact his office through phone, email and SMS to file complaint and; time and again he personally visited people and places needing inspection and moral support.
But half-a-dozen controversies and his continuation with the controversies has started withering his image. Many who looked at him with a hope have started seeing the unmasked hopelessness in him.
The list of controversies since he became Prime Minister is long: the four-point agreement with Madhesi parties to become PM, the induction of Maoist leader Prabhu Sah as minister despite criminal charges on him, his initial support for Defense Minister Sharat Singh Bhandari despite his public anti-nationalistic statement, induction of more ministers with criminal charges, formation of the largest cabinet in the history despite public promise for cost-effective regime and the recommendation to President Dr Ram Baran Yadav for amnesty to murder-convict Maoist leader.
In most of these cases, he probably had a little role to play as he cannot deny ministerial candidates recommended by the ally parties, but nevertheless those controversies have eroded his public image.
Those who wished him good luck and hoped for betterment in social media immediately after his appointment as PM have now backtracked and started criticizing him for being nothing more than the ordinary leader.
Dr Baburam Bhattarai is no more a different politician; rather he is just one among the politicians free of burden of people’s hope. Can he resurrect his image? Maybe. Maybe not.