Monday, November 29, 1999

Nepal ministers` India visits raise eyebrows

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Kathmandu, June 16 -- Presence of both Nepal's Deputy Prime Ministers in New Delhi at a time when political parties here are engaged in a tussle to form the next government have raised eyebrows in the Himalayan nation. Sujata Koirala, who is also the foreign minister left Kathmandu on Tuesday while Bijay Kumar Gacchadar, who is also the minister for physical planning and works, has been in the Indian capital since last week. Gacchadar underwent an eye surgery at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on May 10 and is trying to meet senior ministers and political leaders and discuss the Nepal situation. Koirala is also scheduled to undergo medical check-up for a stomach ailment at the same institute on Thursday. She is expected to meet a number of political leaders and ministers during her five day trip. "She would try and meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, BJP leader Rajnath Singh and others," said a source close to Koirala. Gacchadar is chairman of Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (Democratic), a Terai-based party-the third biggest in the ruling coalition while Koirala, daughter of late GP Koirala, is a senior Nepali Congress leader. The timing of the visits when parties in Nepal are trying to form the next government as part of a three-point deal signed on May 28 has led to speculations. "Leaders from Nepal try to portray themselves as being close to New Delhi in the hope of increasing their stature at home. There is unlikely to be any outcome of these recent visits," said political commentator Prashant Jha. Last month immediately after signing of the deal by Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) and opposition Maoists, senior CPN (UML) leader KP Oli had rushed to New Delhi to apprise the UPA government about it. Seen as someone who could be the next prime minister, Oli too had given the excuse of a routine medical check-up for his trip. "This excuse is given by most Nepali leaders when they visit India. They enact this farce as they don't want to be seen as someone who builds constituencies in New Delhi to boost their own fortunes," said Jha.

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