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Maoists renew attack on rivals ahead of polls

The Maoists, who signed a peace pact after a decade-old war on the state, have renewed their attack on rivals, raising doubts about the freeness and fairness of the polls.
IANS | By Sudeshna Sarkar, Kathmandu
UPDATED ON MAR 13, 2008 01:09 PM IST

With less than a month left for the crucial constituent assembly election in Nepal, the Maoists, who signed a peace pact after a decade-old war on the state, have renewed their attack on rivals, raising doubts about the freeness and fairness of the polls.

With the breakdown of the alliance with the second largest community party, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist (UML), before the April 10 poll, the former guerrillas have begun a blistering attack on their former allies, though last year the alliance enabled them to force parliament into proclaiming Nepal a republic.

On Wednesday, when Maoist chief Prachanda took on the UML in a poll campaign meet in the capital, accusing it of having sold out to King Gyanendra, his cadres severely thrashed a UML contestant in one of their strongholds, preventing him from campaigning.

Dev Shankar Poudel, UML nominee in Ramechhap district in central Nepal, and nearly a dozen other UML supporters were assaulted by baton and kukri-wielding Maoists.

Media reports Thursday said Maoist cadres had warned people in the neighbourhood not to show any support to the UML and not even to offer its members food or accommodation.

The attack came a day after the Maoists obstructed the election campaign of two pro-monarchy parties, the Rastriya Janashakti Party headed by former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, and Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), respectively in Dhankuta and Gorkha districts.

RPP chief Pashupati Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana has been continuously running into Maoist opposition during his poll campaign.

Despite raising the issue in parliament, on Saturday once again he was prevented from holding public meetings in his constituency Sindhupalchowk in northern Nepal.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress party has also come under repeated attacks.

The gravest incident occurred last month when the Maoists attacked former minister of state for information and communication Dilendra Prasad Badu and other men of the Nepali Congress.

The incident caused the seven-party ruling alliance to conduct an investigation that found the Maoists guilty of violating the peace agreement as well as the election code of conduct.

Another former Nepali Congress minister, Govinda Raj Joshi, had his poll meet stopped in Tanahun district.

While the top Maoist leadership has been professing ignorance about the attacks, cadres are saying publicly that they will not allow royalists and people who faced corruption charges to campaign in the areas controlled by them.

The attacks come at a time election observers from the UN, European Union and Carter Center have arrived in Nepal.

The alliance between the Maoists and the UML snapped over disagreement regarding seat sharing and the Maoist effort to pitch its supremo Prachanda as the first president of Nepal, who would head the government as well as the army.

The UML, as well as the Nepali Congress, are supporting a ceremonial president with the prime minister leading the government.

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