Nepal Maoist chief to face fewer rivals

March 10th, 2008 - 4:30 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 10 (IANS) The supreme commander of the Maoists’ guerrilla army, who is eyeing the post of president in a federal republic of Nepal, is going to have an easier time in his poll debut with more than a dozen rivals retiring from the April fray. Prachanda, whose party is seeking to make him the chief of Nepal’s army as well as head of state, will now have to defeat only about two dozen competitors to set his mark on the Kathmandu valley.

The former schoolteacher, who remained underground for over a decade and carried a price on his head, is making his poll debut in a political career spanning over two decades from the Kathmandu valley as well as Rolpa district in Midwest Nepal, considered the cradle of the Maoist revolution that he started in the 1990s.

When the nominations were announced for Kathmandu’s ward 10, which will see the Maoist chief trying to make a dent in the valley, 15 independent candidates had enrolled with Nepal’s Election Commission. However, on Sunday, all 15 withdrew their nominations.

There were media reports that the Maoists themselves had propped up dummy candidates to help the Maoist chief win a seat. It is a prestige issue with the former guerrillas.

However, Prachanda, while releasing his party’s manifesto last week, rebutted the reports, saying he was shocked by them as well as by the Election Commission’s reaction to the reports.

The Election Commission, which has been lauded by all agencies for its independent handling of the historic constituent assembly election, had reportedly written to the Maoist party in the wake of the media reports, inquiring if they were true.

With the independents retreating from a joust with the Maoist supremo, Prachanda’s main contenders now will be Sanu Kumar Shrestha of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and Rajendra Kumar K.C. of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress party.

A poll alliance between the Maoists and the UML seems to have been ruled out with the Maoists rooting for an all-powerful president while the UML is keen on a parliamentary system of government with the prime minister as the de facto executive.

Prachanda, who of late has mellowed towards royalists and has even asked patriotic royalists to join his party, will have another rival in former royalist minister Jagat Gauchan, who has been fielded by the Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, that is going to the hustings in support of a constitutional monarchy.

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