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Maoist bandh begins; seeks PM’s ouster
KATHMANDU, MAY 2 (Agencies):
Published on 3 May. 2010 12:53 AM IST
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Amidst violence in the districts but a largely peaceful capital, Nepal’s opposition Maoist party on Sunday began an indefinite nationwide bandh that hit transport, businesses and industries and left tens of thousands of people facing hardship. The target of their wrath, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, however carried on with business as usual, meeting foreign delegates and refusing to heed the Maoist call for his resignation. However, the intricate communist politics of the Himalayan republic promised to get trickier in the days to come with dissidents in the party renewing a campaign for Nepal’s ouster.
Sixty central committee members of Nepal’s Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), submitted a memorandum to party chief Jhalanath Khanal on Sunday, urging him to exit from the coalition government. The campaign, led by former home minister Bamdev Gautam, has the support of at least one heavyweight, trade union leader and former foreign minister Sahana Pradhan, who is also the wife of late Manmohan Adhikari, Nepal’s first elected communist prime minister.
Though Khanal is seeking a middle way, asking the Maoists to call off their strike first, the intra-party feud is likely to gather steam with the dissidents now seeking to convene a central committee meeting, where they will once more seek Nepal’s resignation.
The government is also under growing public pressure to effect a reconciliation. On the first day of the bandh, thousands of Maoist supporters, headed by their top leaders, former ministers and MPs, kept vigil in key areas of the capital, shutting down public transport, shops and markets, government offices and schools and colleges. The XIIth grade examination was put off indefinitely as the student wing of the Maoists targeted examination centres, forcing students to leave and tearing up answer scripts and question papers. While doing so, they clashed with security forces in several districts, resulting in violence.
A grenade was discovered in Chitwan and a bomb in Birgunj town, both in southern Nepal, adding to fear and tension. The protesters however kept essential services, ambulances, diplomats, human rights workers, the media and tourist-bearing vehicles outside the purview of the bandh. Also, shops have been allowed to stay open for two hours from 6pm to allow people to buy food and other essential stuff and control panic-buying and hoarding.
Both the protesters’ and the state’s policy seems to be wait and watch. However, in the cat and mouse game, it is now certain that there will be no new constitution by May 28. Should that happen, Nepal will be plunged into an even graver crisis as parliament will have to be dissolved and the embattled government will have to go. It would then be time for President’s rule willy-nilly and a state of emergency, reviving the memory of 2005 when King Gyanendra stoked a similar situation by trying to seize absolute power.

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