KATHMANDU: Nepal was bracing for a showdown as opposition parties demanding the restoration of democracy pledged to storm King Gyanendra's palace yesterday in defiance of a ban on demonstrations.
The royalist government banned protests indefinitely in Kathmandu on Thursday, warning that rallies would be infiltrated by Maoist rebels who were seen as a more formidable threat than the opposition parties.
The home ministry warned of “stringent action” against anyone, except those involved in wedding parties, who tries to arrange a gathering of more than five people.
But leaders of the opposition said they would press ahead yesterday afternoon and try to break down the barbed-wire barricades encircling the Narayanhiti Palace.
“We do not care about the consequences,” said Bharat Mohan Adhikari, a former finance minister and a senior leader in the five-party opposition alliance.
The king is in no physical danger from the protests as he has continued with a tour of western Nepal that is slated to end on Monday.
How the protests play out will determine just how serious the parties are in their stated mission to “restore the people's sovereign rights.”
King Gyanendra has so far treated the opposition leaders as out-of-touch career politicians who are desperate to get their jobs back after he dismissed the elected government in 2002 for “incompetence.”
The king accused the parties of contributing little but corruption during the 12 years of elected rule. – AFP