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Nepal: The power equations

By Sheela Bhatt in Kathmandu
April 24, 2006 18:23 IST
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Tuesday, April 25, will be a crucial day for Nepal in view of Sunday's announcement by the Seven Party Allaince (which is heading the people's movement) regarding the million-strong public rally against King Gyanendra.

The SPA has said that at seven different points along the ring road in Kathmandu demonstrations would be led by the leaders like Nepal Congress chairman Girija Prasad Koirala, Communist party leader Madhav Nepal and former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress (Democratic). Tuesday's demonstrations will be a kind of the final message to the King to agree to people's wish.

Informal dialogues are on amongst various Ambassadors of European Union countries and Nepal's politcal parties. Meanwhile India's envoy Shiv Shanker Mukherjee met King Gyanendra on Sunday.

The Nepal Crisis: Complete Coverage

The issue concerns the sequence of events that should lead to the election of the Constituent Assembly. This, if and when a interim government is formed or the Parliament of 2004 is restored.

Curiously people on the streets have taken up the case of Maoists and that has perplexed backdoor negotiators.

People have twin demands and they are in no mood to give up. The demand is for some sort of credible roadmap for a constituent assembly and dialogue with the Maoists to allow them a peaceful landing in Nepal's politics.

A people's movement grows with fury

The public uproar is so intense that political parties are now thinking of leading the crowds to avoid any possibility of bloodshed out of the confusion.

Unrealistic and the increasing hopes of the people can lead to a messy situation, said a NC leader.

The king has, since Sunday, blocked mobile networks in Nepal. The protests against the King were being pushed with communication tools like FM radio, telephones, SMS and e-mails.

When an SMS calling upon people to join on Darbar Marg to gherao the King's palace was widely circulated, the service was disabled. Darbar Marg leads to the King's Narayanhiti palace.

As soon as cellphones were blocked, there were rumours of more force being used by police and the army.

The SPA is waiting for the King's response to their proposal to revive Parliament. The Maoists on the other hand want a parallel government with all parties' members in it. 

The King is taking time because he will have to "risk the monarchy" no matter what decision he takes. Once Parliament is revived people will force it to announce elections to the Constituent Assembly. 

The King needs time to cool down people's anger before the Constituent Assembly actually, if formed, rewrites the Constitution.

He obviously, doesn't want to give in or invite anyone to issue a death warrant to the monarchy. "We want the King to restore Parliament and an announcement regarding possible election to the Constituent Assembly by the restored Parliament," said Arjun Narsingh K of the Nepal Congress to the media. But the delay is also due to the Maoists.

Before Nepal goes for the Constituent Assembly election, the international community and the King want the Maoists to agree to a ceasefire and surrender their arms. Only then is the election possible. Left parties, human rights organisations and radicals want that the Constituent Assembly to turn the monarchy into a Republic of Nepal.

The proposed option is difficult because the political forces can misuse people's emotions. Also there is a high risk that a small event or incorrect perception about the future can lead to bloodshed.

On Sunday night, in northeast of Nepal hundreds of Maoists attacked the town of Chautara and fought security forces. Such violence will not help the movement. Nor will it help the political parties who are treading carefully to keep Maoists in the picture in any final solution.

Now, all eyes are on political leaders' addresses to people on Tuesday and on the King's possible response before or after the rally.

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Sheela Bhatt in Kathmandu