Sunday, February 6, 2011

Nepal Maoists bow out to keep India at bay?

Nepal's Maoist chief Prachanda's decision to withdraw from Thursday'sPM election and Jhalanath Khanal's victory have surprised many.

The Maoists played their cards smartly to keep New Delhi's influence on the Himalayan nation at bay.

Though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was among the first to congratulate the Communist Party of Nepal ( UML) chief on his election as PM, it is certain that South Block would have been happy had Nepali Congress candidate Ram Chandra Poudel won.

At the standing committee meeting on Thursday, the Maoists realised that the arithmetic for chairman Prachanda's victory was not favourable.

The candidature of Bijay Gachhadar, the chairman of Madheshi Janadhikar Forum ( Democratic) jeopardised the Maoists' calculation for victory.

Prachanda was quick to decide to extend support to Khanal not only to bail Nepal out of a constitutional crisis but also to form a communist government in the country, and keep New Delhi in discomfort.

Nepal has been caught in a political crisis since the resignation of PM Madhav Kumar Nepal seven months back. Sixteen rounds of parliamentary voting failed to yield results as Prachanda could not garner the support of 301 members in the 601 member House.

Though Maoist vice- chairman Baburam Bhattarai was against Prachanda withdrawing his candidature, Khanal has always been close to the Maoists. Both Prachanda and Khanal have always been friends during political crises in Nepal.

In October 2005, when seven political parties of Nepal were trying to convince the Maoists to join the political mainstream, Khanal was based in New Delhi and held a series of meetings with the Maoist leadership, especially with Prachanda.

He had earlier said he was " politically close" to Prachanda even during the Janandolan ( Peoples' Movement) in April 2006.

Though the Maoist leadership is tight- lipped about the withdrawal of Prachanda's candidature, sources close to the organisation said CPN ( ML) leader C. P. Mainali and Rashtriya Janamorcha leader Chitra Bahadur KC played a proactive role in the decision.

Chitra Bahadur had recruited Khanal as a teacher in Galkot Secondary School in Baglung district 42 years ago, when he was the headmaster there.

Khanal taught science and mathematics for a year there, and was popular among the students.

During his stint as a science teacher, Chitra Bahadur indoctrinated Khanal as a communist cadre.

Khanal was even arrested while he was serving as a teacher, and was released after 70 days in prison.

Though Khanal migrated to the eastern district of Jhapa for party work following his release from prison, Chitra Bahadur continued to be his political mentor. A veteran communist leader, Chitra Bahadur was a strong campaigner against Indian influence in Nepal.

With the new political equation in Nepal, it now remains to be seen how Khanal and his government looks at New Delhi.


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