Nepal’s deputy PM leaves for New Delhi

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Amidst growing allegations by Nepal’s ruling Maoist party that politicians were rushing to India to hatch a plot with deposed king Gyanendra for the restoration of monarchy, Deputy Prime Minister Bam Dev Gautam Monday left for New Delhi in an unexpected turn of events.

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Gautam, who is also the current home minister, however told the media before his departure that he was going to India for medical treatment and the visit should not be misinterpreted.

“I am not going on a political mission,” Gautam said. “I am not in touch with (opposition leader) Girija Prasad Koirala and have not had any talks with (ousted king) Gyanendra.

“I am not going to meet any Indian leaders during my visit.”

Gautam will be undergoing a health check-up at New Delhi’s Apollo Hospital. While his illness has not been specified, he had recently been admitted to hospitals in Bangkok and Kathmandu.

The minister’s India visit comes ahead of former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s scheduled trip to India Wednesday, also ostensibly for medical reasons.

While Gautam is regarded as being close to the Maoists, Koirala’s India visit has stoked fears in the ruling party that he would be holding parleys with Gyanendra to seek the reinstatement of the monarchy in Nepal with India’s blessings.

Gyanendra, the last king of Nepal, left Kathmandu for India last month on a private visit during which, his aides said, he would be attending a wedding in Bhopal city and go on a pilgrimage of Hindu temples.

However, reports that the former king would also be meeting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and top leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, have triggered Maoist allegations that Gyanendra is seeking to have his seven-year-old grandson Hridayendra crowned ceremonial king.

A former deputy prime minister, K.P. Oli, who belongs to Gautam’s Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), is also in New Delhi since last week, also for medical examinations. Oli is a severe critic of the Maoists and has advocated his party’s pullout from the coalition government.

Nepal’s army chief Gen. Rookmangud Katawal is also likely to go on an Indian visit. The army remains at loggerheads with the Maoist government despite its pledge to obey a democratically elected government. In 2005, the army had supported King Gyanendra in his battle against the Maoists and helped him seize power through a bloodless coup.

Also rumoured to be headed for India is royalist former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, who is regarded as being close to the Indian government.