Kathmandu Valley strike called, more challenges for government

May 31st, 2009 - 5:23 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 31 (IANS) Struggling with infighting among its allies, Nepal’s new Communist government faces more challenges this week with a dominant community calling a shutdown in Kathmandu valley Monday and the Maoist party announcing `token’ strikes and protests two days later.

The Newars, the first residents of capital Kathmandu and its adjoining districts Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, have called a closure of the three districts Monday to press their demand for an autonomous Newar state to be carved out of the three cities.

During the last days of the Maoist government, the Newars had gone on the warpath in the capital after the state slashed the budget for one of their biggest festivals, the worship of the Kumari, the fabled living goddess of Nepal who is selected from a group of young, Buddhist girls. The backlash forced the Maoists to restore the budget allocation.

To add to the troubles of the week-old government of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, the former ruling party, the Maoists, said they will enforce `token’ strikes to force the interim parliament into calling a vote on a contentious issue that brought the fall of their government.

The former guerrillas, who had fought a 10-year war to transform the feudal Himalayan kingdom into a federal republic, Sunday said they would also keep up their siege on the house till it was forced to agree to a vote that is targeted against the republic’s first president, Ram Baran Yadav.

The Maoists, who won nearly 40 percent seats in the 601-member parliament after a historic election last year, have called a sit-in before the government’s administrative offices in all 75 districts Wednesday, Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma said after the top brass of the party met in the capital Sunday morning to chalk out their new war strategy.

From Thursday, the sister organisations of the once underground party will hold ‘token’ shutdowns for 10 days as the first phase of the new war, Sharma said.

The festering feud stems from the sacking of the chief of the army, Gen Rookmangud Katawal, which caused the Maoist government to collapse in May.

The former rebels have now trained their guns on the president, who they say stepped out of his constitutional role to reinstate the fired general.

The party has been calling for a debate in the house to decide whether the president acted unconstitutionally, followed by a vote.

On Saturday, the chairman of the house, Subhash Nembang, ruled out a debate on the ground that the lawmakers were sharply divided on the issue.

Nepal, a veteran Communist leader who replaced Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda as prime minister Monday, is yet to swear in a full cabinet. Only two other ministers from his own party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), took the oath with him.

The expansion of the cabinet, scheduled for Sunday, has been hindered by bickering in Nepal’s own party as well as his two major allies, the Nepali Congress and Madhesi Janadhikar Forum.

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