It’s the Nepal PM’s bed of thorns

October 23rd, 2008 - 3:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Sarah PalinKathmandu, Oct 23 (IANS) For nearly two decades he lived a hard life in Spartan bunkers and forest hideouts and survived. But now, after having won a 10-year war on the state as well as a battle of the ballot, Nepal’s first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” has been badly stung - by his own official bed.The new king-sized Chinese-made bed in Prachanda’s official residence became a bed of thorns two months ago after a Nepali TV station reported how much it had cost - over Nepali Rs.100,000 ($1,284).

Though substantially less than American Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s $150,000 election wardrobe, it still created a furore in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in Asia, where Prachanda’s own guerrilla comrades have been allotted a monthly salary of Rs.5,000.

The public outrage was stoked afresh this month when Khagendra Sangraula, a well-known Nepali writer with communist views, wrote an article in a popular tabloid, flaying the revolutionary leader for perpetuating the extravaganza of the previous governments.

The satire - “When you quit seeing yourself through others’ eyes’ - has created a furious debate with readers flooding the Naya Patrika daily with critical comments.

A non-resident Nepali based in Sydney hailed the Maoist chief as “Shri Saat (seven)”, elevating him two ranks above deposed king Gyanendra, who held the title of “Shri Paanch (five).”

“Prachanda should sleep in a costlier, more fashionable and more spectacular bed,” the writer suggested. “It should be a bed of gold. (After all), his government came to power after 15,000 Nepalis laid down their lives.”

Arun Sharma, a resident of Kathmandu, made a mock defence, saying it was untrue that the former revolutionary was using a bed that had cost so much money.

“He is using only 62.5 percent of that money since he uses only half of it,” Sharma said. “The rest is comrade Sita’s.” Sita Poudel, Prachanda’s wife and the first lady of Nepal, is also a senior member of the Maoist party and its advisor.

Stung by the unflattering comments that have continued to pour in, the state media as well as the Maoist party’s mouthpiece daily jumped into the fray Thursday to defend the beleaguered Maoist chief.

Janadisha, the party mouthpiece, said officials had merely followed the earlier tradition of discarding the bed used by the previous prime minister.

It also said the bed used by the late Manmohan Adhikari, Nepal’s first communist prime minister, had cost twice that amount. Even Prachanda’s predecessor Girija Prasad Koirala’s bed had cost about Rs.200,000. Yet, it said, there had been no anti-prime minister propaganda.

The Maoist daily reported Prachanda’s wife as saying that she was saddened by the controversy.

“Till yesterday, we slept on the floor,” the mother of four was reported as saying. “If needed, we can endure hardship once more.”

Gorkhapatra, Nepal’s state-run daily, said Prachanda had been busy with his visit to Beijing at that time and had no knowledge about the new bed or its price.

However, Sangraula is not buying such arguments.

He says the Maoist party that purports to fight for the common people should have stormed the prime minister’s residence when the news broke, thrown the offending bed out and taken action against the fawning employees who sought to curry favour with the new dispensation.

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