Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Piqued Prachanda resigns, accuses India of 'interference'

Confrontation with Army chief ends in political crisis; India says it is Nepal's internal affair

Nepal's Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known by his nom de guerre 'Prachanda', resigned from office on Monday May 4, 2009. The immediate 'provocation' was President Ram Baran Yadav's intervention to rescind the Prime Minister's impetuous firman sacking Army chief Gen Rukmangad Katawal. Earlier, two allies of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)-led regime, including the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) had pulled out of the Government to protest Prachanda's unilateral action. By the time Prachanda resigned, his Government had lost its parliamentary majority.

In the 601-member Constituent Assembly, elected through direct and proportional representation, the parliamentary strength of the main parties is as follows:

CPN (Maoists): 238
Nepali Congress: 112
CPN (UML): 108
Madhesi People's Rights Forum: 53
Terai Madhes Democratic Party: 21
Sadhbhavna Party: 9

Among the reasons Prachanda cited was 'international interference', and said, "such interference is not acceptable to us". He was darkly hinting at India, whose Ambassador is said to have counselled him against proceeding on a collision course by taking on the Army chief. Prachanda's deputy, Baburam Bhattarai, was less circumspect. In an interview to a television channel, he accused India of being "directly responsible for stalling the dismissal of Katawal" and "instigating the President to go against the Constitution". On both counts he is absolutely wrong. Both Prachanda and Bhattarai were obviously trying to generate anti-India hysteria and thus make political capital out of a crisis precipitated by the Maobadis who clearly have no appetite for the democratic process.

India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee refuted the charge in a statement issued on Monday evening: "What is happening in Nepal is internal to Nepal. We wish Nepal well in its transition to a fully democratic polity and would hope the present crisis is resolved in a manner that contributes to the early conclusion of the peace process."

Interestingly, though, Kathmandu's intelligentsia, which in the past has not hesitated to blame India for Nepal's problems, has refused to accept the Maobadi claim of 'Indian interference'. Shirish B Pradhan, PTI's correspondent in Kathmandu, filed this report on Tuesday, May 6:

Politicians, analysts reject Indian intervention theory

Shirish B Pradhan

Opposition politicians and independent analysts in Nepal have rejected the Maoist Government's charge of Indian intervention in the country's internal affairs, terming it as "lack of political wisdom".
According to political analysts, the blame game by the Maoists displays a long prevalent tendency in the country to blame foreign countries, including India, for troubles in Nepal.
"This shows lack of political wisdom on the part of the Maoist leadership," said senior lawyer Dinesh Tripathi, adding, "there has been a tendency of blaming the neighbouring country for every rise and fall of governments in the past".
During his address to the nation while quitting Government, Prime Minister Prachanda blamed foreign powers for the trouble in the country, pointing indirectly towards India. “I will better quit power than to bow to foreign powers to remain in the office,” he said.
The Maoists' number two leader Baburam Bhattarai said that "India did a blunder" by supporting the Army and the President in their “unconstitutional acts”.
Nepali Congress' chief whip in the Constituent Assembly, Laxman Ghimire, said the Maoists had themselves sought foreign support for their move to sack the Army chief.
Prachanda had recently summoned ambassadors of eight countries to seek support for his move to sack the army chief. "But when they did not endorse his idea, he made a hue and cry over foreign intervention in the affairs of the country," Ghimire said.
Civil society leader and Constituent Assembly member Nilamber Acharya said the Maoists have themselves chosen the path of confrontation by sacking the army chief unilaterally, and the Prime Minister was falsely accusing foreign and internal forces for toppling his Government.
"Prachanda himself met Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood for half-a-dozen times in connection with the issue of Army chief and when he did not get a favourable response he is talking about foreign intervention, which is ridiculous," he said.

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