Nepal celebrates Gyanendra ouster, but inter-party spats continue

By Sudeshna Sarkar,IANS,

Kathmandu : As Nepal Friday celebrated the third anniversary of the fall of former king Gyanendra’s army-backed regime, the celebrations were marred by discord among the major parties, a standoff between the ruling Maoists and the army, and bad blood between the former guerrillas and their southern ally India.

Support TwoCircles

On April 24, 2006, Nepal’s last king Gyanendra, whose decision a year ago to seize in a bloodless coup the absolute power his ancestors enjoyed triggered countrywide unrest, was forced to reinstate parliament and step down as head of government.

The ouster came after 19 days’ continuous protests led by Nepal’s sidelined political parties with the support of the underground Maoist guerrillas.

The king’s exit led to the Maoists signing a peace pact and taking part in a historic election last year that helped them come to power.

The election also decreed the abolition of Nepal’s 239-year-old monarchy.

On Friday, Nepal’s first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda led the celebrations at the capital’s public grounds in Tundikhel where the deposed king’s place as head of state was taken by President Ram Baran Yadav.

But the Democracy Day celebrations were marred by growing spats between the three major parties that had in the past been united by their opposition to the king.

The Nepali Congress (NC), the second largest party in Nepal, now sits in opposition. Since this week, it has been obstructing parliament to protest against what it says is a “concerted Maoist bid to capture power by controlling the army”.

The dispute erupted as the Maoist government tried to sack the chief of the Nepal Army, Gen Rookmangud Katawal, but failed to do so after widespread opposition, including from the international community.

The bid also divided the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), the main ally of the Maoists in the coalition government.

The UML is on the verge of a vertical split with one faction supporting the government while the other threatening to quit if the battle is not withdrawn.

Even as the UML said it would hold a meeting of its top leaders Friday to decide whether to support the Maoists, a section of the media reported that the army itself had contemplated a “soft coup” against the Maoist government.

While there was no official confirmation of the report, the former guerrillas however turned against their former ally India after being thwarted in the attempt to remove the army chief.

Though New Delhi had brought the Maoists and the main Nepal parties together during King Gyanendra’s regime, the Maoists are now accusing the southern neighbour of interference.

The Janadisha daily, the mouthpiece of the Maoists, Friday accused Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood of going to New Delhi to draw up new anti-Maoist strategies.

It wrote that the Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had asked UML chief Jhalanath Khanal not to agree to the army chief’s dismissal. The daily also accused New Delhi of manipulating the opposition and royalist parties against the Maoists.