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Two top Nepalese leaders visit India as political crisis deepens

Last updated on: November 03, 2009 18:46 IST

Two senior Nepalese leaders, including the chief of the ruling party, on Tuesday left for India, where they are set to meet the Indian leadership, as the political crisis in Nepal deepened with the Maoists stepping up their protests to destabilise the government. Jhalanath Khanal, the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, which heads the 22-party ruling alliance, and Upendra Yadav, president of Terai-based Madhesi People's Rights Forum, headed for India on Tuesday.

Khanal, who was invited to New Delhi by the Indian government, will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, party sources said. Khanal is also expected to hold consultations with Indian communist leaders, who have close links to the Nepal Maoists.

The Nepalese communist leader will also hold meetings with the leaders of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, including its chief Rajnath Singh.

With just two weeks left for the government to get the parliamentary approval for the budget, Nepal could run out of cash to run essential services including hospitals. The Maoists had blocked the House disrupting the passing of budget for the current fiscal year.

Nepal's Finance Minister Surendra Pandey said the country was facing a serious financial crisis. "If the budget is not passed in next two weeks there will be a financial crisis." Former Foreign Minister Yadav, the president of the Madhesi People's Rights Forum, handed over a nine-point memorandum to Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal on Sunday asking him to fulfill its political and economic demands, including giving Hindi the official language status at the earliest.

Nepal's Terai plains are home to about half of the country's 27 million people; and the residents of the region, known as Madhesis, have long complained of discrimination by the country's hill communities.

The Maoists on Tuesday stepped up their protests by picketing village administration and municipal offices nationwide, and stalling work in government offices.

The Maoists are moving toward their planned blockade of Kathmandu Valley and the country's only international airport on November 10.

The Maoists have been blocking the Parliament and organising protests since Prachanda resigned on May 4 as prime minister, after the President Ram Baran Yadav reinstated General Rukmangad Katawal, the then army chief dismissed by Prachanda.

Describing the President's move to reinstate General Katawal as "unconstitutional and undemocratic", the Maoists have demanded an apology from Yadav and discussion of his decision in Parliament so as to enforce "civilian supremacy" in the country.

Khanal on Tuesday held consultations with Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala before leaving for New Delhi. The meeting is regarded here as an effort to diffuse the current political stalemate.
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