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Nepal keenly watching Indian polls

By Anil Giri, KATHMANDU (IANS): Nepal is keenly following the upcoming general elections in India as any crucial economic or political changes that take place in the giant neighbour will directly impact on the Himalayan nation’s politics, economy and common people. Nepal shares a 1,850-km open boundary with India.

Those keenly following and gauging the political pulse in India are not just Prime Minister Sushil Koirala but also leaders of the left, right and centrist political forces. Koirala gets daily updates on the situation in India from his aides and advisers.

“We regularly update him about the latest poll situation, dynamics and developments in India,” Prakash Adhikari, Koirala’s press coordinator, told IANS.

The prime minister prefers reading English language newspapers, both local and Indian, to whet his appetite to better understand the latest political developments in India. Some major English language Indian newspapers are available in Kathmandu every evening, which serve as a source for getting in touch with Indian politics for politicians, diplomats, top bureaucrats, journalists and even common people here.

“Sometimes, if we find an interesting story on Indian politics and latest election-related development, we print them and provide to the PM,” said Adhikari.

Similarly, former prime minister and senior Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai regularly goes through Indian news and social sites.

“He has been keenly following the developments in India since long,” his aide, Bishow Deep Pandey, told IANS.

Bhattarai, a Ph.D scholar from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, the party ideologue and an avid reader, regularly visits all available media and social networking sites to get updated on the latest in Indian politics.

There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm among Nepal’s common people about India’s elections as several print and electronic media operating here have been covering at least one news item on Indian politics every day, which has generated interest and sometimes healthy debates.

“What I sensed during my recent trip to India was that people have a lot of frustration with the Congress, which the BJP has been successfully cashing in,” said Pradip Gywali, a senior leader of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist.

“The success of the BJP lies in how different political constituencies make an alliance with the BJP and which parties can make and break the alignment and realignment in the larger political context,” he added.

Another avid India-watcher, former foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey, said: “In a nutshell, the overall election culture of India is changing and established powers like the Congress and the BJP are facing challenges from unnamed parties and faceless people.”

This is having a huge impact on Nepal’s politics, Pandey said, adding that states in India are becoming powerful while shaping India’s foreign policy.

“That is why Nepal needs to increase its engagement with Indian states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and West Bengal,” he said.

He also referred to the rigid positions of some regional parties in shaping India’s relations with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Kamal Thapa, the chairman of Nepal’s fourth largest party, Rastriya Prajatantra Party, had announced here some days ago that India’s policy towards Nepal would undergo some changes if the BJP came to power.

Addressing a media gathering in west Nepal in the second week of March, Thapa, who is a pro-royalist and pro-Hindu leader in contemporary politics, claimed that BJP prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi wanted Nepal to be a Hindu state.

“The Indian bureaucrats are dominating India’s policy on Nepal at present but that would not happen if the BJP comes to power,” said Thapa who had met Modi in India some months ago.

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