`Indian polls may be behind Nepal’s army chief sacking drama’

April 22nd, 2009 - 2:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 22 (IANS) As Nepal’s first Maoist government faces the possibility of collapse following its determination to fire the chief of the army, a media report Wednesday said that the ongoing Indian elections could be a reason for the high drama.

“(Prime Minister) Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda feels that after the elections in India, there is a danger of (the new Indian government) intensifying efforts to topple the government in Nepal,” the Ghatana R Bichar weekly said.

“So before that happens, he wants to fortify and safeguard his own position.”

The weekly said that Prachanda would feel secure only after the state army was under the control of his former guerrilla party. Hence he was focussing on taming the army before a new government came to power in India.

The fear of a new dispensation in New Delhi, either headed by the ruling Indian Congress or nationalistic Bharatiya Janata Party, both of whom have an uneasy relationship with the Nepal Maoists, could well be a key factor in the Maoists’ decision to take the Nepal Army head-on even at the cost of being deserted by its own allies.

Gen Rookmangud Katawal, the army chief under fire, is due to retire in August. By trying to sack him just four months before and putting its government at risk indicates the Maoists are under some serious compulsion.

On Monday, after the army chief refused to resign voluntarily, the Maoist government asked him to furnish an explanation within 24 hours.

The 61-year-old was asked to explain why the army continued to recruit soldiers even after being ordered to stop, reinstated eight brigadier-generals the government had decided to retire and finally, why last month it walked out of the National Games after the Maoist army, the People’s Liberation Army, also announced its participation.

The general’s reply that he had acted in accordance with the law has infuriated the Maoist party, whose hardliners are urging Prachanda to sack him.

On Wednesday, Maoist rallies erupted nationwide, asking for action against the army chief and criticising President Ram Baran Yadav, who is also the titular head of the army. Yadav has advised Prachanda not to fire the general in a hurry.

With the cabinet scheduled to take a decision on Katawal’s dismissal Wednesday, there are indications of a crisis in the Maoist-led government.

The main ally of the coalition government, the communists, are sharply divided on the issue. While one faction, including party chief Jhalanath Khanal, would prefer to go with the Maoists, the other is opposing the move fiercely.

Khanal, currently on a week-long visit to China, is expected to cut short his trip and return as rivals have threatened to pull out of the government and split the party.

India is watching the developments closely. The Indian ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood has met Prachanda twice already to express New Delhi’s concern at the new crisis that could derail the peace process.

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