Nepal Maoists emerge as major force after historic poll

April 11th, 2008 - 7:11 pm ICT by admin  

(Evening Lead)
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 11 (IANS) A ragged group of people who dreamt impossible dreams and dared to take on Nepal’s powerful army with homemade guns and bombs, Nepal’s Maoist guerrillas established themselves as a formidable force in the 90s when they prevented elections and inflicted punishing losses on the security forces. Two years after they laid down their guns and marched back to the parliament they had derisively branded a “meat shop”, the rebels have proved to be an equally formidable political force with the historic constituent assembly elections unexpectedly showing their support.

As counting started amid tight security in 239 constituencies, the trends indicated that while the capital had voted conservatively, returning Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress (NC) party in most of the 10 seats, the guerrillas were emerging as giant killers in some while sweeping the electorate in the west.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), once the second largest force in the country after the NC, were routed ruthlessly, paying dearly for their failure to have reached a poll alliance with the Maoists.

However, in a country of surprises, there was still scope for unexpected results with counting yet to start in the hilly regions, considered NC strongholds, and in the east where two debutant ethnic parties are expected to challenge the supremacy of the ruling alliance.

The NC tasted the first victory when former physical planning and works minister Prakash Man Singh, a son of Ganesh Man Singh, one of Nepal’s most revered freedom fighters, won with overwhelming majority in constituency one humbling current minister for physical education and sports Pradeep Nepal of the UML.

It was a heady moment for Singh, who was jailed for graft during King Gyanendra’s absolute rule before being freed by Nepal’s supreme court in a landmark judgement that signalled the end of the royal regime.

However, the Maoists were leading in three Kathmandu seats, including constituency two, considered a UML fortress from where UML chief and deputy PM Madhav Kumar Nepal himself was contending.

A little-known Maoist candidate Jhakku Prasad Subedi was leading convincingly, causing stunned disbelief among the ruling parties.

In Kathmandu 10, Maoist chief Prachanda, making his poll debut in a political career of three decades, was leading.

The UML was ahead only in two seats in the capital.

In neighbouring Lalitpur city, Maoists were leading in one seat and the NC in the other while counting was yet to start in the third.

It was a moment of jubilation for Maoist minister for women, children and social welfare Pampa Bhushal, striding ahead of her UML rival former minister Raghuji Pant, who had won the earlier election from Lalitpur 2.

The remote districts in western Nepal, the “land of the disappeared” where the decade of “People’s War” led to a stunningly high number of disappearances, arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings by security forces, rejected the traditional parties to embrace the Maoists.

Maoists were leading on all four seats in Bardiya district and in three seats in Dang, considered a Maoist stronghold.

Among the frontrunners in Dang is Maoist minister for information and communications Krishna Bahadur Mahara.

In the tourist district of Chitwan, famed for its rhino park, Maoist strategist Ram Bahadur Thapa aka Badal was leading the race on one seat with the NC and UML leading in one seat each.

Even in Palpa district, the site of a devastating attack by the Maoists during the last days of King Gyanendra’s rule, the Maoists were well ahead.

In Banke, the Maoists were leading in one seat with two others favouring the new ethnic party, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum.

The debutant party was poised to humble in seat 3 Sushil Koirala, prime minister Koirala’s cousin, and deputy chief of the NC.

The Maoists were also leading in seats in Makwanpur and Nawalparasi.

As Maoists routed communists, only a small localised left party stood its ground.

The Nepal Workers and Peasants Party (NWPP), a minor partner in the ruling alliance, held its traditional bastion Bhaktapur town in Kathmandu valley defending it stoutly against both the NC and Maoists.

NWPP chief Narayan Man Bijukchhe was winning from constituency one while his lieutenant Sunil Prajapati was leading over his nearest rival NC man Lekhnath Neupane in constituency two.

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