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India blamed as Nepal PM quits, Maoists take to streets

world Updated: May 05, 2009 02:59 IST

Nepal’s first Maoist prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, announced his resignation on Monday in a televised address, sending shock waves through the nation and raising questions about peace and stability in the country.

<b1>Prachanda’s resignation came after two allies of his coalition government pulled out, following a long quarrel over the sacking of the army chief, leaving the government under the cloud of a no-trust vote in parliament and likely defeat.

The 55-year-old blamed political parties — the opposition as well as his own allies — and “foreign powers” for the lack of progress made by his eight-month-old government.

Without naming India, he accused the southern neighbour of interfering in Nepal’s internal matters and said the country would never bow down before foreign masters.

In India, foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee said, "What is happening in Nepal is internal to Nepal. We wish Nepal well in its transition to a fully democratic polity and would hope the present crisis is resolved in a manner that contributes to the early conclusion of the peace process.

Prachanda also charged President Ram Baran Yadav of going against the constitution by reinstating army chief General Rookmangud Katawal who, he said, had been dismissed by an elected government to ensure the sovereignty of
the people.

The opposition Nepali Congress party welcomed the resignation. “It was a good decision,” NC lawmaker Prakash Man Singh said. “Since his government became a minority with the pullout of the communists and the Nepal Sadbhavana Party, there was no moral ground for it to continue.”

The alienation of the Maoists was underscored Monday when a crucial cabinet meeting called by Prachanda was boycotted by the two remaining allies, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum and Communist Party of Nepal (United).

Singh said his party had begun consultations with the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) for the formation of a new government. “We are likely to support a UML-led government from outside,” he said.

Fears of violence spread through the nation as public rallies erupted in the capital, Banepa and Birgunj cities.

While Maoist cadres condemned the president, eight sister organisations of the NC, joined by the UML’s youth wings, criticised the “despotic” nature of the Maoist government.

Kathmandu authorities prohibited rallies and demonstrations in front of the army headquarters and Shital Niwas, the residence and office of the president.

The fall of the Maoist government raises fresh fears about the fate of the fragile peace process, especially the proposed merger of their guerrilla fighters with the Nepal Army and the drafting of a new constitution by next year.

While there was no immediate reaction from the international community, the UN called for restraint and consensus.

"The secretary general calls on all concerned to resolve the crisis through dialogue and consensus, with full respect for the provisions of the constitution.” a statement issued by the UN chief’s office in New York said.