Nepal’s former Maoist PM announces rival new party

KATHMANDU – Nepal’s former Maoist prime minister Baburam Bhattarai announced a new political party on Sunday in an attempt to attract legions of voters disillusioned with mainstream leaders.

Waving flags of the new centre-left party, thousands gathered at a stadium in Kathmandu where Bhattarai vowed to focus on bringing economic development to the impoverished Himalayan nation.

Bhattarai, prime minister from August 2011 to March 2013, played a key role in bringing the Maoists into the political mainstream after the end of their decade-long insurgency in 2006.

But Bhattarai quit the main Maoist party last September over the adoption of Nepal’s controversial new constitution, and after years of playing second fiddle to Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda.

“Today we announce the establishment of a new political party, Naya Shakti Nepal, an alternative political force…
to fulfil the hope of justice, equality, freedom, identity, liberty and prosperity of the people,” Bhattarai told the cheering crowd.

A coalition of mainly left-wing parties including the main Maoist party form the current government.

Bhattarai’s move came weeks after the Maoists joined hands with hardline splinter groups to form their own new party in an attempt to bolster their strength.

The Maoists, a minority partner in the current government, have lost ground since winning a landslide victory in the Himalayan nation’s first post-war elections in 2008.

Many former guerrillas have broken away from the main party in recent years, accusing its leaders of betraying their revolutionary ideals.

Analyst Lok Raj Baral said Bhattarai’s new party could become a powerful player in an already crowded political landscape.

“Bhattarai has a strong image and his economic agendas can appeal to the people who are highly dissatisfied with the major political parties,” said Baral, of the Nepal Centre for Contemporary Studies.

“As a Maoist leader, he also has strong linkages across the country to make the party powerful.”

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