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Prachanda breaks bread and barriers

It was an informal lunch meeting but the fare turned out better than expected for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

india Updated: Sep 16, 2008 23:16 IST
Zia Haq

It was an informal lunch meeting but the fare turned out better than expected for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

Several senior politicians on Tuesday attended a get-together hosted by the Indo-Nepal Parliamentary Friendship Forum’s head Sharad Yadav for Nepalese Prime Minister Prachanda. But it was Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, also Yadav’s Janata Dal (United) colleague, who came out the most satiated.

A source said Prachanda, whose demeanour was remarkably casual, told Kumar that he could call him anytime to discuss issues, apparently not caring too much about protocol.

“My country respects the new awareness in India for a stable and prosperous Nepal. We are committed to a new start after a break in the continuation of our (old) relationship,” the Nepalese PM said. The forum also presented Prachanda, a Maoist hero who launched an armed rebellion in 1996, with a book on Gandhi’s core messages, Thoughts of Gandhi.

The Nepalese leader assured the Bihar CM that Nepal would accord the highest priority to tame rivers flowing in from the Himalayan state.

On the eve of Prachanda’s visit, the JD(U) and a distressed Nitish had lobbied hard to apprise the Nepalese PM of the situation in Bihar. Nepal’s help is crucial to tackling floods in Bihar and Nitish, understandably, was keen on meeting Prachanda.

Prachanda is known to be a close friend of Yadav and had invited him to the oath-taking ceremony in Kathmandu. “Our friendship goes back 25 years,” said Yadav. It came in handy for Nitish, who wants a dam built on Kosi on the Nepal side.

“Prachanda fully appreciated the fact that Nepal’s help was essential in solving the flood problems posed by rivers flowing in from the Himalayan state,” JD(U) MP NK Singh said.

Maoists-BJP thaw?

Prachanda surprised India’s right-wing by reaching out to its leaders. At a high tea hosted by BJP chief Rajnath Singh, Prachanda sought to dispel the fears about Nepal shedding Hindu ethos because of the world’s only living Hindu monarch had to shed the crown. He drove to Rajnath’s 38 Ashok Road residence and told the gathered BJP and RSS leaders that the Maoists were not against the Hindu faith. Their campaign against the king was due to the monarch’s anti-people policy for many years.

(With inputs from Shekhar Iyer)