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Playing day after, the Prachandagate tapes

world Updated: May 06, 2009 01:31 IST
Vijay Jung Thapa

A day after the resignation of Pushpa Kumar Dahal, Nepal’s first Maoist Prime Minister, a video called "Prachandagate” is the talk of this Himalayan Republic.

<b1>Named after Dahal’s nom de guerre (a fictitious name used when the person performs a particular social role), which means “the fierce one,” it shows Prachanda while addressing Maoist cadres, talking about how he hoodwinked everyone about the “real numbers” of his army.

"You also know we were just 7,000 to 8,000. But our strategy was to convince them that we were 35,000,” he is seen saying in the one-year-old video. “That way, we infiltrate more people into the Nepal Army.”

In the video, Dahal tells his troops that he wants control over the Nepal Army and eventually, he hopes to transform the country to a single-party rule. “That is our strategy.”

On a day where only sporadic incidents of protest were reported from Kathmandu, and a large number of political parties sat closeted inside a room trying to thrash out an alternative government, the video made top news.

Maoist leader Mohan Baidya, while confirming the genuineness of the tape, made light of it by saying this was “old strategy” and the thinking within his party had completely changed. “One should really investigate why has this tape suddenly surfaced after a year at this time,” he added.

Baidya’s hint is clear – he means the Indian government and its alleged Machiavellian role in Nepal’s politics. If Dahal was subtle in his resignation speech on Monday, his number two and the Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai was bludgeon-like. “India was behind this. It is going to cost India dearly…” The Maoists, clearly, have decided to whip up the old anti-India blame game frenzy.

Right from the days of King Mahendra, the “blame India” game has been played out in Kathmandu’s corridors of power – often with justification. The role of the Indian Embassy here is always seen with intrigue and is considered a part and parcel of the power equation.

This time too, analysts say, Indians had a strong interest in ensuring Gen Rookmangad Katawal stayed on as Army Chief. First, Katawal has close contacts with India’s top military brass and secondly the man who would have succeeded him – Gen Kulbahadur Khadka — is seen to be close to the Maoists.

Besides, there was the China factor. Nepal’s “Big Red” neighbour usually always dealt with the royal palace. But now, after the abolition of monarchy, it has decided to increase its sphere of influence and is openly wooing Nepal’s political parties including the Maoists. In fact, had he not resigned, Prachanda was scheduled for a Beijing visit that could have led to the signing of the first Sino-Nepal Friendship Treaty. So what happens now? The 21 parties who met on Tuesday have already declared that they shall form a national government on consensus. The Nepali Congress Vice President Ram Chandra Poudel said, “We will try to form a consensual government within the time as asked by the President.”

That means as soon as Saturday, Nepal could have a new government.

But Dahal and his party, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal, are still sulking. The Maoists skipped the all-party meeting on Tuesday, instead demanding an apology from President Ram Baran Yadav for saving Gen Katawal. They have also vowed to stall proceedings in the House.

All this doesn’t augur well for the peace process and India that has invested so much in it. New Delhi’s only recourse can be to keep its channels open with the Maoists and hope for the best.