Koirala postpones talks with king

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By PRANAY SHARMA in Kathmandu
  • Published 5.05.04

Kathmandu, May 5: Talks between Nepali Congress leader G.P. Koirala and King Gyanendra scheduled to begin today have been postponed in view of the possible negative impact the dialogue may have on the five-party Opposition alliance, where the Congress is a major partner.

The talks may now be held on Friday or over the weekend. Madhav Nepal, the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), the other significant member of the five-party alliance that has launched a countrywide protest for the past one year demanding the restoration of parliament, has publicly opposed any dialogue with the king at this juncture.

Indications are the Nepali Congress may have postponed the talks to assuage other members of the alliance. Party leaders tried to put up a brave front on the negative impact a dialogue with the king may have on the alliance.

They emphasised the need to engage with the palace to resolve the political crisis and made it clear that Koirala and Gyanendra would meet in the next few days.

But they added that the Congress would not like to break the five-party alliance at this juncture as it appeared to have put the king on the defensive.

Hectic closed-door parleys among the Nepali Congress leadership to prepare the ground for talks between Koirala and the king are underway. The leaders today said the party would like to know whether the king was willing to look for a resolution of the crisis within the constitution of the country.

“If the king is willing to look for a solution within the constitution then we will demand that he restore parliament,” party leader and former minister Chakra Bastola said.

But while this is the public position, sources said Koirala may even bring up the issue of holding fresh elections in the country, provided the Maoist rebels who hold sway over almost all rural areas of Nepal are not opposed to it.

The palace is said to have started informal negotiations with the Maoists and a deal may be struck sooner rather than later.

Political analysts believe that one reason the king was keen on a dialogue with Koirala is that he wanted the Nepali Congress and other democratic forces to endorse his deal with the Maoists.

There is also a possibility that Koirala may bargain for the Prime Minister’s chair till peace talks between the king and the democratic forces and the Maoists are completed and the situation is right for fresh elections.

If the proposal is accepted, Koirala may choose not to contest the next elections.

A lot will, however, depend on how Madhav Nepal reacts. There is a popular view in the Nepali Congress that Koirala should meet the king, but that is not shared by the Communist Party that Nepal heads. Rather, he may find it difficult to convince his cadre of the need for a dialogue with the palace now.