Nepal parties call for probe into Maoist bribe tape

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Nepal’s largest ruling party is asking for an investigation into a taped telephone conversation that purportedly records a prominent Maoist leader seeking NRS 500 million from a Chinese “friend” to buy MPs ahead of Sunday’s prime ministerial election. The ex-rebels say they would conduct a probe themselves.

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Just hours before Nepal’s parliament begins an unprecedented sixth round of vote to elect a new premier more than two months after Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned, the top leaders of the opposition Maoist party held an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the election as well as the impact of an audio tape circulated to the media last week.

The tape has purportedly caught Maoist lawmaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara seeking NRS 500 million from a highly placed “friend” in China to persuade 50 MPs from other parties into voting for Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda in the prime ministerial election Sunday.

While rejecting the tape as a fake and a “tissue of lies”, the Maoist leaders said they would begin an investigation themselves.

Their contender in Sunday’s poll, the Nepali Congress, has already asked for an inquiry.

Prachanda’s contender in the prime ministerial poll, former deputy prime minister Ram Chandra Poudel, said the allegation that the Maoists were buying MPs to win the election had to be investigated as well as the tape.

The Nepali Congress issued a statement saying the government must test the voices in the tape and make the truth public.

It said that there had been an earlier allegation by a Communist leader, C.P. Mainali of the Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist Leninist who had said the Maoists had offered him NRS 50 million to vote for them.

When he refused, the Maoists caused a split in his party, Mainali had said.

The Nepali Congress said the scandal exposed the true face of the Maoists. It however absolved the Chinese government of involvement in the bribing act, saying Beijing was a good neighbour that did not interfere in Nepal’s internal matters.

Mainali, the first to have made the bribery allegations against the Maoists, also asked for Sunday’s prime ministerial election to be postponed in view of the growing allegations of bribery against the Maoists.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])