A former prime minister, but does no longer hold any office. A founding leader of the country’s oldest surviving democratic party, but does no longer belong to any party. An ailing old man who defied death. A steely personality who stood alone against the republican tide. And still commands the kind of respect none of the present-day politicians can even dream of.
The man is Krishna Prasad Bhattarai who celebrated 87th birthday last week. From president Ram Baran Yadav, prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and a number of former prime ministers of all hues to hundreds of commoners, all thronged at his Badegaun residence in the outskirts of the capital to wish him a long life.
The strong-willed politician is determined to live the life to the fullest. Having just seen his long-awaited memoir out to mark the birthday, the octogenarian hopes to complete a century.
He may not belong to any party now, after quitting three years ago the Nepali Congress that he helped found more than sixty years ago.
But people cutting across the parties still keep him in high esteem.
Something none of the present-day leaders can claim to even reach closer to.
He is not a saint as some believe him to be. Like any human being, he has weaknesses and shortcomings.
A true democrat and nationalist, he is a man of principles.
But he made some political blunders he could and, should, have avoided --- the most notable being his abortive bid to enter the parliament through a Kathmandu by-elections immediately after a carefully drafted game-plan that engineered his defeat from the same constituency in parliamentary elections after the restoration of democracy in 1990.
By his own admission, as he told this reporter in an interview, he could not resist the provocation of the ambassador of an influential neighboring country.
That blunder undid him and the course of the national politics began to take a series of nasty turns, which show no sign of ending anytime soon.
Unmanageable crisis in the party he headed, dissolution of the parliament by an unsure prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, mid-term elections, hung parliament, frequent change of the government, the foreign-bred ‘home-grown’ insurgency, the palace massacre, the suicidal royal take-over and the current mess even after a regime change.
He still does nurse an ambition, “god willing”, of play a role in the national politics to clear the mess it is currently in.
Perhaps he wants to make up for the lapses like the blunder of his otherwise illustrious political career mentioned earlier.
For his shortcomings and weaknesses, however, Bhattarai stands tall and remains a towering figure in the gory national politics of today.
Running in frail health, time may have run out for the be-spectacled leader to see far beyond, but the principles and the values he has espoused have not outlived their utility. They will never.