Prachanda, Bhattarai not to join government

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Amit Baruah

`For a new Nepal to emerge, close links with India are vital'

NEW DELHI: Top leaders of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Prachanda and Babu Ram Bhattarai will not join the interim government to be set up in Nepal, but will nominate other party members to join the administration.

Addressing a meeting organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) on Saturday evening, CPN (M) Chairman Prachanda declared that he wanted to enter the government with the mandate of the people.

Thanking Indian intellectuals for helping the cause of democracy in Nepal, both Mr. Prachanda and the Jawaharlal Nehru University-educated Bhattarai said the end of the monarchy was critical to the establishment of a durable democracy in Nepal.

According to him, emotional links between Indian and Nepalese intellectuals had grown in recent times. Indian intellectuals, he stressed, were part and parcel of the experiment now taking place in Nepal.

Mr. Prachanda said his party was the only one that had waged a people's war after spending three years in Parliament. According to him, communists had made mistakes in "handling" democracy in the world and made a specific reference to Stalin.

"Multiparty competition is necessary even in real socialism," he declared, saying that at a landmark meeting in Siliguri the Maoists had decided to take a more pragmatic line while the mainstream political parties, too, had taken a step forward towards an understanding.

The Maoist chief said that consumerism had increased so much in the world that it had been plunged into a grave ideological crisis. However, taking an optimistic view of a poor region like South Asia, Mr. Prachanda felt that a "new ideology" would emerge from the region.

U.S. motives

Mr. Prachanda repeatedly asserted that the United States had tried to sabotage the Nepal peace process, first with the political parties, and then negotiations with the Girija Prasad Koirala Government.

The CPN (M) Chairman said that American motives in Nepal were not "transparent" and asserted that the United States, perhaps, wanted to encircle China or capture the markets in India.

Making it clear that they wanted to put in place a new state structure in Nepal, Mr. Prachanda said the abolition of the monarchy and the "democratisation" of the Nepal Army was a must. In his view, a new Nepal could not come into being without close links with India.

With the positive attitude adopted by the Indian state, the people of Nepal were losing their "psychological fear" of India. Blaming Nepal's old political leadership for failing to develop the country, he said some people felt that the Maoists had "surrendered" while others believed that they were planning an armed insurrection from within. "Both are wrong," he said.

`Down but not out'

On his part, Dr. Bhattarai warned that the monarchy in Nepal was "down, but not out" and asserted that India should not show any vacillation in ending support for the monarchy as an institution.

In response to a question about the so-called "red corridor" from "Pashupati to Tirupati", Mr. Prachanda responded that they had no particular attachment to these places and suggested that some Hindu fundamentalists were peddling such ideas. Such ideas had never been discussed within the CPN (M), he said.

Stating that they had stopped recruitment to their people's militia, he said a new Nepalese Army would have to be half of the current strength (about 90,000) of the Army and the 25,000-strong militia maintained by the Maoists.

On the issue of weapons, he said a formula had been agreed upon, but the Maoists would have to keep some "declared weapons" for security of the seven designated cantonments where their arms would be stored and for the security of the party's leadership since the Nepalese Army could not be trusted totally.

In response to another question, Dr. Bhattarai said he believed that India would release top Maoist leaders C.P. Gajurel and Mohand Baidhya after his party joined the interim government.

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