India’s envoy meets Prachanda over government formation

April 20th, 2008 - 6:32 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 20 (IANS) As Nepal’s former guerrillas stepped up consultations over government formation following their landslide victory in this month’s election, India’S ambassador to Nepal Shiv Shankar Mukherjee met Maoist supremo Prachanda to enquire about the process as well as the fate of embattled King Gyanendra. Mukherjee, the first foreign envoy to meet Prachanda since the latter’s announcement that he would head the new Maoist-led coalition, is understood to have discussed the coordination with other parties as well as reiterated India’s support in any way.

Alarmed by a recent statement by Prachanda’s deputy Baburam Bhattarai that if King Gyanendra, who faced an overwhelming mandate for the abolition of his crown, did not leave the palace in four weeks, people would throw him out, India has been urging for an amicable settlement of the issue.

Soon after that, the Maoists softened their tone with both Bhattarai and Prachanda saying that the king, once revered as an incarnation of god and enjoying absolute power, would be treated with honour after the abolition of the 239-year-old monarchy.

“We would safeguard his financial, social and cultural rights,” Bhattarai subsequently said.

The Indian envoy is also said to have discussed with Prachanda the abolition of monarchy and the fate of the royal family during his visit to Prachanda’s house in the Naya Bazar area of the capital, the new centre of power from the official residence of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala in Baluwatar.

Political analysts say the Maoists are likely to press for the key ministries of home, finance and defence. The Maoists have already begun parleys with Koirala and his Nepali Congress party, as well as the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist for the formation of a new ruling alliance.

Currently, all the three ministries are with the Nepali Congress with Prime Minister Koirala also holding defence.

The Maoists are also keen to bury the hatchet with their old foe, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum that has emerged from the Terai plains as the fourth largest party after the April 10 constituent assembly election.

At the same time, the former guerrillas who once fought an armed war to abolish monarchy are trying to sense the pulse of the royalists.

Prachanda, who met former royalist ministers Ramesh Nath Pandey and Prakash Koirala before the election, last week reportedly also held talks with Kamal Thapa, the king’s home minister who headed the only major party rooting for monarchy in the polls and was routed.

The palace could also be sending feelers to its enemy following Prachanda’s statement that he would like to meet the king and discuss an amicable settlement with him.

Last week, the king’s uncle by marriage and business associate Prabhakar Shumsher Rana met Prachanda while soon after that, the king’s press secretary is said to have telephoned the Maoist chief to congratulate him on his party’s astounding victory in the polls.

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