As Nepal readies to hold prime ministerial poll again for an unprecedented seventh time on Tuesday, the country's former foreign minister, whose party has come under suspicion of being bribed by the opposition Maoist party to vote for them, says the former guerrillas are not alone in buying votes.
Upendra Yadav, who emerged as a new leader of Nepal’s oppressed Madhesi community - people of Indian origin living in the southern Terai plains - during the army-backed reign of King Gyanendra, now leads a fractured party, the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Nepal).
After the elections in 2008, Yadav’s party had emerged as the fourth largest in parliament and the most powerful party in the Terai with 53 MPs.
However, last year, when the short-lived Maoist government fell, there was a rift in the party.
While Yadav, regarded as being close to the Maoists, favoured sitting in opposition or allying with the former rebels, the dissidents in the party wanted to support the communists to help form the new government.
Subsequently, 28 MPs broke away to form the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Loktantrik) party which joined the government. Its chief Bijay Kumar Gachchhedar became the deputy prime minister.
Now with yet another prime ministerial election in the offing, Yadav’s party is under suspicion of agreeing to vote for the Maoists in lieu of NRS 10 million per MP with the money promised by a "friend" in China.
Rejecting the slur, the former foreign minister says horse-trading is not a new phenomenon in Nepal.
"Last year too, political leaders like Madhav Kumar Nepal and Girija Prasad Koirala split my party and got the dissidents to vote for them," Yadav told IANS. "Huge amounts of money poured into Nepal from outside at that time too.
"Then why is no one talking of that today? I wish someone would play those tapes now."
The former minister said his party would decide only on Tuesday whether to vote or stay neutral.
It had stayed neutral through five rounds of vote as part of a front of four Terai parties, including its own splinter group.
However, on Sunday, the Yadav faction disagreed with the front, demanding that Terai MPs be allowed to vote.
"We are saying that the nation can’t be kept hostage any longer," Yadav said. "We want to be allowed to vote for either of the two candidates so that the protracted political impasse is resolved."
The MP from Sunsari denied the allegations that some of his party men had been bought and had crossed the floor to vote for Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda in an earlier round of vote.
"They did so to protest against the other parties holding the nation hostage," he said. "We condemn any attempt to buy MPs and demand an inquiry into it."
The allegations about the Maoists trying to buy MPs to win the prime ministerial election surfaced last week with the circulation of an audio tape.
It purportedly catches Maoist MP Krishna Bahadur Mahara in conversation with an unidentified male who says a "friend" in China is ready to pay NRS 500 million to acquire the vote of 50 MPs from the Terai parties.
The Maoists have rejected the tape as a fake and said they would conduct an investigation.
However, as the Nagarik daily said Monday, people were ready to believe the allegation due to the growing disrepute of the former guerrillas.