Maoists take poll plunge with manifesto for ‘new Nepal’

March 7th, 2008 - 9:46 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 7 (IANS) Nearly two decades since they last fought an election in Nepal and then chose to begin a guerrilla war, Nepal’s Maoists Friday finally took the plunge for a poll that would be the first of its kind in the Himalayan state, releasing their party’s election manifesto and rooting for a new leadership. Maoist chief Prachanda, who led his guerrilla People’s Liberation Army to war against the state for 10 years as its supreme commander, released the poll pledge at a five-star hotel here, marking the sea change that has overtaken the party that was once hunted down as a terrorist organisation.

The 39-page comprehensive manifesto roots for change with the main slogan calling for “New leadership and new thinking for a new Nepal”.

It also seeks mass support to make Prachanda the first president of a federal republic of Nepal.

Far outstripping its other main political rivals, the detailed poll manifesto has come up with the Maoist vision for a new Nepal that would be divided into 11 autonomous states with the right to self-determination and two sub-states.

It also outlines the main features of the new constitution that would be written after the April 10 election and describes the Maoist strategy for financial and social transformation of the country.

Baburam Bhattarai, Prachanda’s deputy who headed the team entrusted with formulating the manifesto, said if voted to power, his party would increase Nepal’s per capita income to $3,000 in 10 years from the current $270.

“In 40 years, Nepal would be one of the richest countries in the world,” the architect-turned-revolutionary said.

The Maoists have also pledged to scrap all unequal treaties signed by earlier governments, most of which are with India, and seek to get equal pay and pension for Nepal’s Gorkha soldiers employed in the Indian and British Armies.

They are also proposing a two-tier parliament at the centre when the restructuring of the country takes place as well as a single chamber assembly in every state.

The president, to be chosen through a direct election, would be the head of state as well as of the army while the prime minister would be entrusted with the day-to-day running of the government.

As in India, the states would have a chief minister and a governor.

The former rebels have also promised to produce 10,000 MW of power in the next decade and put an end to the chronic power shortage that has been plaguing the nation.

They have also pledged to eradicate illiteracy in five years, end untouchability, and take telephone services to remote villages.

As a special sop to the Muslim community, they are promising a powerful National Muslim Commission that will work for the benefit of the minority community.

In a remarkable deviation from the earlier anti-gay line toed by all communist parties, they have also promised to recognise the third gender, issue citizenship certificates to them and pay heed to their welfare.

Prachanda, who is making his poll debut from Rolpa district in midwest Nepal, the cradle of the Maoist insurgency, as well as Kathmandu valley, rejected media reports that his own party had propped up 17 dummy candidates to divide the votes of the opposition and boost his chances.

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