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Indian envoy rejects Nepal poll meddling charge

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Indian envoy to Nepal Rakesh Sood Friday rejected the charge by a Nepali politician that India was interfering in the country’s first presidential election by pressuring the Maoists to prop up a candidate approved by New Delhi.

“I refuse to dignify such comments by remarking on them,” Sood told IANS.

The controversy was triggered by a communist leader C.P. Mainali, whose Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist Leninist has nine members in the 576-member constituent assembly.

Mainali told a Nepali television channel Thursday that the Maoists’ last-minute decision to break a pact with the communists and instead of supporting their candidate, propose a 73-year-old former revolutionary’s name for president was done under Indian pressure.

The communist lawmaker told Sagarmatha TV that when Nepal’s royal palace was formally inaugurated as a national museum last month following the abolition of monarchy and the departure of dethroned king Gyanendra, Sood had congratulated the Maoist nominee, Ram Raja Prasad Singh, and told him he would have to carry a huge responsibility on his shoulders in the days to come.

“It was unnatural and a blow to the unity among the top parties,” Mainali told IANS.

“The Maoists have nominated Singh due to pressure by India and this would create strife in the country.”

He also said the Maoists were opposed to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala as president due to India’s pressure.

“Koirala had realised that India was trying to turn him into another Lhendup Dorji (the first prime minister of Sikkim who played a key role in the merger of the Himalayan nation with India),” said Mainali.

“Once he began to resist New Delhi’s pressure, he was no longer acceptable to the Indian authorities.”

Mainali predicted that Singh’s election as president would increase the political turmoil in Nepal.

“The two other top parties (Koirala’s Nepali Congress and the UML (Unified Marxist Leninist) have said they would not join the Maoist-led government,” Mainali said.

“Singh’s candidacy is supported only by the Terai parties. A government formed of the Maoists and Terai parties is bound to be volatile.

“In the end, Nepal’s independence and sovereignty could come under threat.”

Soon after Mainali’s comments, a former UML minister Ishwor Pokhrel called the presidential poll a game controlled by foreign powers and the BBC’s radio service in Nepali also picked it up.

Singh’s office said the Indian envoy had congratulated him but said there was nothing untoward in it.

“His name had been proposed from the very beginning by civil society and senior journalists,” the presidential candidate’s office said.

“He has the image of being a non-political person with immense contribution to the cause of a republic.”