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Nepal Maoists leader asks for bribe

Are Maoists in Nepal seeking financial help from China to bribe lawmakers to vote for their candidate in the deadlocked prime ministerial election? See graphics

world Updated: Sep 05, 2010 00:10 IST
Utpal Parashar

Are Maoists in Nepal seeking financial help from China to bribe lawmakers to vote for their candidate in the deadlocked prime ministerial election? See graphics

Two telephonic conversations, allegedly between Maoist leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara and an unnamed Chinese person, that have surfaced ahead of the sixth round of voting on Sunday seem to suggest such a possibility.

In the sting operation tapes leaked to Nepali media on Friday, Mahara is heard asking for NRs 500 million from the unknown Chinese person to bribe 50 lawmakers to vote for Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

Mahara, who is the head of the Maoist party’s foreign cell, has called the tapes fake, while The Himalayan Times quoted a Chinese Embassy official in Kathmandu terming the allegation baseless.

The audio tapes of two conversations, lasting over 12 minutes, were reportedly recorded on August 31 and September 1. A voice sounding like Mahara speaks in broken English to a caller with a noticeable Chinese accent. In the conversation the Maoist leader says his party has already acquired support of 10-15 lawmakers from other parties, but need 50 more votes for Dahal to win.

There is allusion to India in the conversation when Mahara says that some lawmakers are guided and controlled by the “south” and it is necessary to “neutralise” its influence.

Ahead of the fourth round of voting for the prime minister’s post, India had sent former foreign secretary Shyam Saran as special envoy to talk to all parties and end the impasse.

Nepal is in the process of electing its new prime minister but despite five rounds of voting, neither of the two candidates — Dahal and Nepali Congress leader Ram Chandra Poudel, have managed to secure the 300 votes needed to win.