Nepal keeps fingers crossed as India announces polls

March 3rd, 2009 - 2:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, March 3 (IANS) Nepal has its fingers crossed after its southern neighbour India announced general elections in April and May, anticipating that a change in guard in New Delhi will impact Nepal’s ruling alliance and help or hinder the ongoing peace process.

Though the two top parties - and biggest rivals - in the Himalayan republic said they had no favourites and would accept the verdict given by India’s over-700 million voters, the reality is different.

In 2006, when Nepal’s now ruling Maoist party was an underground organisation branded as terrorists, India’s Congress-led federal government took the initiative to forge a rapport between it and Nepal’s major political parties.

The mediation was pushed by India’s Communist and socialist parties, whose leaders have close ties with Nepal Maoists.

However, once the Maoists laid down arms and took part in an election last April, New Delhi made clear its preference for the Nepali Congress (NC) party of then prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala.

So the Maoists will prefer a left victory in India while the NC, now sitting in opposition, will be perked up by a Congress win. A yet third factor in Nepal’s politics - the royalists - are likely to pray for the triumph of India’s right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Till 2006, when Nepal was a Hindu kingdom ruled by its Shah dynasty of kings, the BJP had supported monarchy in the neighbouring country.

Though the Maoists are now the biggest party in Nepal with 220 seats in the 601-seat constituent assembly and succeeded in abolishing Nepal’s 239-year-old monarchy, they still harbour fears about the resurrection of the crown with the support of Indian parties.

The fears have been growing since Nepal’s deposed king Gyanendra last week left on a nearly three-week-long visit to India, apparently to attend a family wedding and worship at Indian temples.

“It is definitely not the actual reason,” says Maoist lawmaker Barsha Man Pun Ananta, regarded as a member of Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda’s kitchen cabinet.

“It is a political visit aiming to reinstate monarchy in Nepal. We support the victory of any party in India that will support people’s sovereignty in Nepal, help the peace process and the drafting of a new constitution.

“However, it is for the Indian people to decide which party they want. Our party and government are ready to offer any help India wants for a peaceful and fair election.”

Opposition leader Koirala’s daughter Sujata Koirala says her NC party, which had contributed to the Indian independence movement in the 1940s, will accept the decision of the Indian voter.

However, she makes it clear that the NC will be happy with the victory of an Indian party that will heed its grievances against the Maoists.

“We hope the victorious Indian party will help resolve the Maoist problem in Nepal, the rule of terror in Nepal and lack of stability,” she said.

What makes the Indian polls, kicking off April 16, even more riveting for Nepal is that six days earlier, the Himalayan republic itself will hold a by-election for six seats.

The first election under a Maoist government, it is going to be the barometer of the once underground party’s present popularity.

If the former rebels sweep the April 10 by-polls, they can afford to relax over the Indian hustings.

But if they fare badly, due to the continuing lack of security and unprecedented power crisis, the Indian polls and the aftermath will continue to keep them on tenterhooks.

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