Nepal Maoist chief to visit China again

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Despite a political crisis at home and the allegation of seeking money from Chinese “friends” to win the prime ministerial election casting a shadow on the party, Nepal’s Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda will embark on a visit to China next month, his party said.

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The former revolutionary, who quit from the prime ministerial election Sunday after failing to win even after seven rounds of vote, will be visiting Shanghai at the invitation of the Chinese government to attend the Shanghai Expo 2010.

He is among the eight world political leaders to get Beijing’s invite, an invitation that came after his government collapsed.

This will be Prachanda’s fourth visit to China since 2008, when he began his short tenure as Nepal’s first Maoist prime minister on a controversial note.

Invited to attend the conclusion of the 2008 Olympic Games, Prachanda courted criticism by flying to Beijing despite a devastating flood in southern Nepal. The visit also brewed controversy as earlier Nepal prime ministers had followed the tradition of making southern neighbour India their first port of call after assuming office.

In September 2009, four months after his coalition government fell, the Maoist chief courted fresh controversy by going on a visit to Hong Kong. Though the trip was touted as holding consultations with the Nepali diaspora there, doubts continue about the actual reason, even today.

The following month, he stoked suspicions by going on a visit to Beijing.

The Shanghai trip comes even as Nepal remains stuck in an election imbroglio, unable to choose a new prime minister despite eight rounds of vote.

An unprecedented ninth round of election, scheduled for Thursday, is also expected to fail.

Though Prachanda withdrew from the fray Sunday, due to Nepal’s unique poll process, the exercise, however futile, has to continue as long as there is even a single contestant in the ring.

Prachanda’s lone challenger, the centrist Nepali Congress party, has refused to withdraw its candidate, former deputy prime minister Ram Chandra Poudel, though Poudel has little hope of getting the 300 seats required in the 601-seat parliament in order to win.

The Nepali Congress says it will have no truck with the Maoists over forming a new government till the former guerrillas give up “the politics of arms”.

It could mean that the Nepali Congress will continue with the election charade and block the way for a new election procedure until the Maoists empty their cantonments where nearly 20,000 guerrilla combatants have been barracked since the end of the armed insurrection in 2006.

To pave the way for the Shanghai junket, the Maoists, the largest party in parliament, postponed their plenum, which was to have been held from Oct 23 to Oct 29.

The party said the Shanghai trip would be for nearly a week though the exact dates and programme had not been finalised yet.

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