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King misread Maoists: Prachanda

The Maoist leader said they wanted to speak to the King for a forward-looking solution, but he remained regressive.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2006 19:39 IST

Nepal's Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, who made his first public appearance here on Friday after 11 years, admitted that his banned party was in touch with King Gyanendra too while emphasising that the monarch had misread the Maoist action.

Prachanda, whose party was freshly declared a terrorist organisation by King Gyanendra after the latter seized power through a coup last year, said after his guerrillas began an armed revolt against the government in 1996, it was in touch with the palace.

"Five years into the people's war, in view of the fact that foreign powers were trying to intervene in Nepal, our central committee leaders were in contact with King Birendra (Gyanendra's brother)," the Maoist supremo told TV channel Nepal 1 in a brief interview aired on Saturday.

"The documents are in safe custody in our headquarters," he said.

In an earlier interview given to another channel, Prachanda had said that King Birendra sent his younger brother Prince Dhirendra as his emissary to meet Maoist leaders.

He also hinted that Birendra's death in a mysterious shooting in the palace in June 2001, in which Dhirendra was also killed along with eight more royals, could have been due to that.

"Birendra had patriotism," Prachanda told Kantipur Television. "He could have been killed because of that. Gyanendra has neither patriotism nor love for his country. He is an utter fascist."

Although the Maoists decided to centralise their efforts on ending monarchy after the palace massacre, Prachanda said they still wanted to hold talks with Gyanendra when he succeeded Birendra.

"The army was loyal to the king and so we thought we should speak with him," he told Nepal 1.

Probably the overture emboldened Gyanendra to attack the political parties and seize direct control of the government, thinking Maoists would be willing to listen to him.

"But Gyanendra misread us," Prachanda said. "We wanted to speak to him for a forward-looking solution. He was planning to be regressive."

Misreading the Maoists could cost the king dear.

While Koirala still has a soft spot for monarchy and is advocating retaining a ceremonial monarch stripped of all power, the rebels, who on Friday signed a pact not to resume arms, will now train their guns on the king.

Prachanda said by mid-April next year Nepal would hold an election where people would be asked to choose between monarchy and a republic.

His party has already begun campaigning vigorously for a republic.

Referring indirectly to Koirala's defence of a ceremonial monarch, he said: "If someone prefers that, it's his personal preference and he is free to do that. We are also equally free to campaign for a republic when the election is held."

Asked if the Maoists would lead the new interim government expected to be formed within a month, Prachanda said: "After an interim constitution is drafted, the issue will be discussed and decided on the basis of consensus."