Out of the shadow of a Maoist government that focused on moral policing during its brief stint in power, Nepal's oldest and best known beauty pageant that had been stopped by the former guerrillas is now hoping for resurrection.
Miss Nepal, the country's most popular beauty contest that was started 15 years ago but was obstructed by the women's wing of the Maoist party last year, is once more calling for young, unmarried and tall beauties to come forward with their applications by this month to win the crown that brings a cash prize as well as the opportunity to take part in the Miss World contest.
"We will hold the Miss Nepal pageant around September-October," said Subarna Chhetri, whose events management company, The Hidden Treasure, is the organiser of the pageant. "However, we are not announcing the date immediately." The cause for the caution is the extraordinary animosity and opposition to the pageant last year when the Maoists were in power, with their women's organisation preventing the contest from being held.
The Maoists say Miss Nepal projects women as commodities and is a ploy by multinational companies to promote the sale of cosmetic products. They are also objecting to the fact that married women can't take part. However, though Miss Nepal was not allowed last year, nearly a dozen other beauty pageants took place without any hitch, indicating that the Maoists had a different reason for opposing the oldest pageant.
With Indian herbal goods giant Dabur India's wholly owned Nepal subsidiary being the main sponsor of Miss Nepal, it is felt that the Maoists' animosity towards the Indian company whom they tried to extort and attack during their 10-year insurgency could have been the real cause.
Last year marked the third time that the pageant could not be held during its 15-year career. It was stopped by the organisers themselves in 2001 as part of the national mourning after the then king Birendra and nine more members of the royal family died in a shootout in the royal palace in Kathmandu.
In 2006, political upheavals after Birendra's successor King Gyanendra was forced to step down as head of government following nationwide protests also made the organisers postpone the pageant.
Chhetri said his organisation wanted to hold the pageant in a spirit of harmony and had repeatedly asked the Maoists to spell out their real objections so that a compromise could be worked out.
The reigning Miss Nepal 2007, Sitashma Chand, as well as her predecessors have been campaigning for the pageant to be allowed, saying it provided them with a platform and opened new career possibilities.