Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dahal's whereabouts churns rumor mill

KATHMANDU, Sept 11: Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal has a penchant for clandestine trips. Be it within the country or abroad, he has made many secret trips, generating curiosity and controversy.

His sudden trip Friday evening to the eastern part of the country (still not known where exactly) has stirred fresh speculation, rumors-and even conspiracy theories.

First, let´s start with what is known for certain: Chairman Dahal landed at Biratnagar airport Friday evening, accompanied by his wife Sita and son Prakash. He was received by his confidant Haribol Gajurel, a Maoist politburo member.

Rest is sketchy.

Security officials in the eastern region informed Republica that they were told by party sources Dahal was coming on a private visit and they were asked not to arrange for his security or to follow him. "All that we know is he went northward from Biratnagar," said an official. Dahal´s son Prakash in his facebook status posted Saturday afternoon had written "@ Itahari east part of Nepal."

A Maoist party leader close to Gajurel claimed that Dahal is in Bhedetar, a small hilly town between Dharan and Dhankuta, where he will rest for a few days. A scenic, breezy hilltop, Bhedetar often draws crowds from the eastern part of the country for picnics.

According to another source, Dahal has gone to Tarahara Agricultural Farm located between Dharan and Itahari.

Dahal has often taken refuge in resorts on the outskirts of Kathmandu Valley with his family, during tense moments in his party or to prepare political reports to be presented in party committees.

But this is the first time that he has traveled this far to take "rest" and that is what has raised suspicions and set the rumor mills churning.

Rumor number one: Dahal has crossed the Nepal-India border and reached Siliguri to settle a long running dispute between his youngest daughter Ganga and son-in-law Narayan Bikram Pradhan, an Indian national residing in that city. Ganga and Narayan have been living separately for the last several years (Ganga now lives in Kathmandu) and they are said to be on the brink of divorce.

So the visit could be either to finalize the divorce or to initiate a patch up. Pradhan, the son of a local Indian leader and sympathizer with the Maoist party, was arrested by Indian police along with Maoist Vice-chairman Mohan Baidya and jailed for some time.

Rumor number two: Dahal is in Siliguri to negotiate with Indian intelligence officials. Many Baidya faction leaders, who claim that Dahal met RAW chief Alok Joshi and his deputy during his last visit to Malaysia and finalized a deal that paved the way for the election of Baburam Bhattarai as prime minister, believe this speculation.

The fact that Maoist Chairman Dahal held several clandestine meetings with Indian intelligence officials in London, Hong Kong and Singapore in the past also has made the Baidya faction leaders very suspicious.

Rumor number three: Dahal went to Sunsari to meet and negotiate the peace process with NC President Sushil Koirala, who is in Inaruwa to address a party function commemorating the birth anniversary of the late legendary NC leader B P Koirala. But many NC leaders who have reached Biratnagar to attend the function dismissed any such meeting between Dahal and Koirala. 

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