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As Nepal politicians call on BJP leaders, new bridges built, old ones dismantled

Nepal's mainstream parties -- the Nepali Congress and half a dozen Communist groups -- have traditionally maintained a distance from the Sangh. But that changed with the recent visits of PM Deuba, Nepal Maoist leader Prachanda

BJP National President J.P. Nadda with Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, Chairman of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), during their meeting at BJP headquarters, in New Delhi. (PTI)

Nepal Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda on Sunday wound up his three-day visit to India by calling on BJP president J P Nadda. External Affairs Minister s Jaishankar and the BJP’s foreign affairs cell chief Vijaya Chauthaiwale were present during the meeting at which Prachanda discussed bilateral relations between the two countries.

Prachanda’s visit comes three months after Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba visited the BJP headquarters — the first Nepalese PM to do so while on an official visit. “The visit was made in (Deuba’s) capacity as president of the Nepali Congress, at the invitation of BJP chief J P Nadda,” Nepal Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka had said in response to criticism from the country’s Left parties.

Deuba had also attended an elaborate puja and lunch in Varanasi, hosted by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, before his return to Kathmandu.

What marked another departure from the usual was that both Deuba and Prachanda didn’t call on any of the leaders of non-BJP parties despite their long association, especially with the Communists, Congress and socialist groups in India, during the Nepal Maoist-led armed insurgency against the monarchy for a decade starting 1996.

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Nepal’s mainstream parties — the Nepali Congress and half a dozen Communist groups — have traditionally maintained a distance from the Sangh, which has always found a natural ally in the monarchy.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and BJP National President J.P. Nadda with Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, Chairman of Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre), and his daughter Ganga Dahal at BJP headquarters, in New Delhi. (PTI)

Until 2006 — when Nepal transformed from a monarchy into a secular republic — the RSS and the BJP maintained close ties with the monarchy, and did not have any political ally in Nepal. In fact, many BJP leaders favoured Nepal remaining a Hindu kingdom and a monarchy.

In December 1960, when Jawaharlal Nehru called the monarchy’s dismissal of Nepal’s first elected government led by the Nepali Congress’s B P Koirala a “setback to democracy”, Jana Sangh leader Deendayal Upadhyaya had strongly resisted a debate in the Upper House, saying it would amount to interfering in a “friendly country’s internal affairs”.

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The recent visits by Prachanda and Deuba mark a bridging of that distance between Nepal’s mainstream parties and the RSS/BJP. The visits are also being seen as a success for the BJP in bringing the “secular” ruling Nepali Congress and Prachanda’s Nepal Communist Party — allies in the ruling coalition — closer to the party and the Sangh.

In fact, Chauthaiwale had taken the initiative to build a personal rapport with Deuba, soon after the latter took over as PM last July, by finding a rakhi sister in the Nepal PM’s wife, Arzu Deuba, who is seen as wielding influence in the party and administration. Incidentally, Arzu was in Delhi on a medical visit while Prachanda was meeting Nadda.

While Chauthaiwale’s initiative is part of ‘Know BJP’, the party’s outreach to foreign nations, Prachanda’s just-concluded visit set off speculation back home.

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For one, the visit comes two days after Prachanda’s elaborate five-hour-long meeting with a Chinese delegation led by Liu Jianchao, foreign department chief of the Communist Party of China, triggering speculation that India was working to discourage the consolidation of Communist parties and wants Prachanda to stick to his current alliance with the Nepali Congress. The country is headed for general elections in November.

With his political rivals back home accusing him of “inviting Indian interference in Nepal’s internal affairs”, his office issued a clarification that he was hopeful that his visit would help consolidate Nepal-India ties and address all outstanding problems between the two sides.

The visits by the Nepal politicians are also a sign of the distance the BJP and the Sangh have covered in terms of their Nepal policy.

In the period between 1952 and 1971, even as the Jana Sangh was still a fledgling party in India, the RSS had started expanding its foothold in the neighbouring country, deploying a full-time pracharak who acted as the link between Nagpur and Nepal. Currently, there are more than a dozen ‘pracharaks’ in Nepal and a huge cadre base that works in the social and educational sector.

But the biggest step forward for the BJP and the Sangh has been their recent handshakes with “secular” parties, the Nepali Congress and the Maoists.

First published on: 18-07-2022 at 03:54:12 pm
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