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Maoists want king to go

Kathmandu, June 1: Nepal’s Maoists claim to have taken control over nearly 80 per cent of the kingdom, but cannot give the final push because they are not sure what to do with the king.

“We want the king to make a sacrifice for the sake of his people and abdicate,” says Baburam Bhattarai, the chief Maoist negotiator in the peace talks with the government. “Probably the king can become the president of the new people’s republic — like Prince Norodam Sihanouk of Cambodia.”

Sitting in his office not far from the palace, which the Maoists opened after they came overground following the ceasefire last January, Bhattarai is relaxed and answers questions candidly. A former architecture student at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, he has taken the opportunity of coming overground to release his PhD thesis — a Marxist analysis of Nepal’s political problems — last week. “We used to joke that JNU is the fourth communist state in India after West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura.”

Bhattarai, though, does not want to “antagonise” King Gyanendra too much at this stage because of the peace negotiations.

The Maoists have put forward four basic proposals for the peace negotiations. And they do not include abolition of the monarchy. They want a “round table conference” to select an all-party interim government, in which they too will participate.

The interim government will elect a constituent assembly which then will draft a new constitution. “It is for the new constituent assembly to decide what to do with the king,” Bhattarai says. He is unsure which way the peace talks will go following the resignation of Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand and the formation of the next government. “I told both Girija Prasad Koirala (of the Nepali Congress) and Madhav Nepal (of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) that the king is using them for his games over the next government,” Bhattarai says.

The dialogue failing, the Maoists will have no hesitation to return to their path of insurrection. “We know the Americans are using their influence over the king and the army to scuttle the talks. The US has a new agenda in Nepal and wants to use it as a base to work against India and China.”

But he has no fears of Maoists losing control over the newly-acquired “republic”. In fact, he is planning to take journalists to remote, mountainous parts of the country to show them precisely that — the Red Star over Nepal.

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