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Monday, April 26, 1999 Published at 09:46 GMT 10:46 UK

World: South Asia

Nepal communist leader dies

Mr Adhikari had a popular grass-roots approach to development

Former Prime Minister and veteran leader of Nepal's communist party, Man Mohan Adhikari, has died at the age of 78.

Mr Adhikari suffered a heart attack last week, collapsing while campaigning for the country's May general elections. He had been in a coma for seven days at a hospital in the capital, Kathmandu.

As news of his death emerged, thousands of Nepal Communist Party-United Marxist and Leninist (NCP-UML) party activists, leaders and other Mr Adhikari's supporters thronged the hospital.

The government announced that a state funeral for Mr Adhikari would be held on Tuesday evening. The national flags are flying at half mast at all government buildings, and Tuesday was declared a public holiday throughout the country.

Mr Adhikari's body will lie in state at the open air theatre until the funeral. State radio said he will be cremated on the banks of holy Bagmati river in Kathmandu, according to Hindu rituals.

He will be the second political leader to be given a state funeral in Nepal after the death of Ganesh Man Singh in 1997, a veteran freedom fighter.

Popular chairman

Mr Adhikari, who helped to popularise communism in Nepal, was elected general-secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal in 1953 and remained its head until it merged with another communist group in 1990. He was elected its chairman the same year.

He became prime minister in November 1994. But his minority government was ousted in a vote of confidence nine months later.

Mr Adhikari was part of a popular movement that stripped Nepal's King Birendra of absolute power and turned him into a constitutional monarch. Nepal became a multi-party democracy in 1990.

He was best known for his grass-roots approach to development. He began the "make your own village" programme in which people who had flooded the cities in search of jobs were encouraged to return to their villages to work at the local level.

Mr Adhikari's anti-corruption drive within his administration and his fight against nepotism made him popular with the public.

His party, the NCP-UML, is currently one of the three ruling coalition partners, along with the Nepali Congress (NC) and the pro-India Nepal Sadbhavana Party (NSP).

May elections

Mr Adhikari was his party's prime ministerial candidate for the May elections.

His death will cause a delay in polling in the two constituencies he was contesting, but voting in the five other Kathmandu constituencies will proceed 3 May as scheduled.

The second phase of the election is to be held on 17 May.

Mr Adhikari's wife, Sadhana Adhikari, 65, is expected to be nominated in her husband's place.

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