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Opinion poll wants Gyanendra as head of state

But the government and Maoist rebels remain at loggerheads over who should be the country's head of state in the new Constitution.

india Updated: Dec 14, 2006 14:27 IST

While the government and Maoist guerillas remain at loggerheads over who should be Nepal's head of state in the new Constitution, an opinion poll delivered a clear verdict: it wants King Gyanendra.

The seven parties in the government led by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on Wednesday failed to reach an understanding with Maoist chief Prachanda and finalise the new Constitution although it had been drafted in August.

The major bone of contention is the position of King Gyanendra, who gambled away the popularity of the crown after an attempt to grab power through a cop last year.

The Maoists, who began their rebellion in 1996 calling for the abolition of monarchy, want that when a new government is formed, the prime minister or speaker in parliament should be given the position of head of state.

However, they have run into strong opposition from Koirala and his Nepali Congress, which want King Gyanendra to remain the head of state as a ceremonial king without any administrative power.

The two sides have also remained deadlocked on the issue of arms management.

The Maoists say they will disarm only after an election next year when voters will decide if they want to keep King Gyanendra or scrap the crown for a republic.

Till then, they have offered to keep their soldiers and arms locked up in makeshift barracks under UN supervision.

But in a sudden change of stance, Koirala is now asking them to disarm before the election. He has received support from deposed premier Sher Bahadur Deuba and his Nepali Congress (Democratic) party, a member of the ruling alliance.

Meanwhile, an opinion poll conducted by Kantipur, an independent television channel, found that an overwhelming 68 per cent people voted in favour of King Gyanendra.

The 48-hour poll, in which viewers were asked to SMS their opinion, concluded Wednesday night.

Just 20 per cent said they wanted the prime minister as the new head of state while a still more dwindling 12 per cent voted in favour of the speaker. The channel did not say how many callers took part in the poll.

The fresh upsurge in favour of the king comes at a time the Maoists have been expressing confidence that people will vote to axe monarchy during the critical election to be held by June 2007.

Even one of Nepal's oldest parties that supported monarchy during the 15-month authoritarian rule of King Gyanendra, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, has distanced itself from the crown after an intense anti-crown wave in April that resulted in a mass revolt against the royal regime.

The fresh support would come as a boost for the royal family that despite being stripped of its powers and privileges by the new government it continues to enjoy deferential treatment.

Nepal's media on Thursday reported that security personnel cordoned off a busy road outside the capital for hours to enable King Gyanendra and Quenn Komal as well as the Queen Mother Ratna to attend a wedding without facing traffic snarls.

First Published: Dec 14, 2006 14:27 IST