| Opposition activists shout anti-monarchy slogans at a protest rally in Gongabu, Nepal. (AFP)
Kathmandu, April 14 (Reuters): Nepal’s biggest Opposition leader rejected an offer by King Gyanendra today to hold national elections and unity talks to defuse a campaign against his rule, setting the stage for more pro-democracy rallies.
Girija Prasad Koirala, a four-time Prime Minister and president of the Nepali Congress, the largest political party, said time was running out for the king and urged the international community to continue pressuring the monarch.
“He did not address the problem of the nation, he should have done that,” Koirala, said in an interview, hours after the monarch’s message was broadcast to the Hindu nation on its new year day.
“There is no change (in his stance), all he has changed are only his words,” said the 84-year-old leader. “We will start our agitation as usual and it will go on till the sovereignty of the people is not returned.”
Nepal was plunged into fresh turmoil after an alliance of seven main political parties launched a nationwide general strike on April 6 and held mass protests.The protests were the most intense since the king sacked the government and took power 14 months ago.
Nepalis had hoped that the king would make the first move to end the strife through his traditional new year message. But the king only reaffirmed his earlier pledge to hold national elections without setting a date, and called for talks to help restore democracy without elaborating.
Koirala rejected the invitation for talks. “I will not go there like a dog, (with my) tail between my two legs. You should know that I’ve been fighting for democracy since 60 years and am fighting still,” said Koirala, speaking in the balcony of his bungalow in an upmarket Kathmandu neighbourhood.
But the chain-smoking former trade union leader has been ailing for some time and rarely comes out in public, which has led to the absence of a charismatic leader at the forefront of the mass campaign.
Koirala said the people wanted him to take care of his health so that he could continue to guide the movement from home. “Time is running very fast and for me time is very short, because of my health and my age,” Koirala said. “People know that and they want that I should care for my health first.”