NEW DELHI (AFP) — A stunning showing by Nepal's Maoists in landmark polls is a wake-up call for giant southern neighbour India as it battles its own left-wing rebellion, analysts say.
India, they say, needs to do far more to bring its own ultra-left insurgents into the mainstream and end crushing poverty that drives rebels into their arms.
"New Delhi will have to get used to this completely unexpected choice of the people," said security analyst Uday Bhaskar, adding that Nepal's surprise early results from last week's elections held lessons for India.
"There is definitely a need for India to be alert -- in terms of the linkages that may develop between the Indian left-wing rebels and their compatriots across the border," he said.
Their pro-poor platform is the reason Delhi is so worried about the group known in India as the Naxalites, after the town Naxalbari where the movement was born in 1967.
The Indian Maoist rebels, who say they are fighting for the rights of neglected tribal people and landless farmers, are now active in 15 states and have been described by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the "single biggest threat" to India's internal security.
Some 834 people died in Maoist-related violence last year, including one attack in which the rebels slaughtered 55 policemen.
India, which shares a porous border with Nepal, had been "expecting the Nepalese people to vote for the centrist parties rather than the political left or the right," said Krishna V. Rajan, a former Indian ambassador to Kathmandu.
Instead, results show the staunchly republican Maoists on track to become the single largest party in a new assembly whose first task will be to abolish the monarchy and rewrite the Himalayan nation's constitution.
The Nepal rebels ended their decade-long bloody insurgency and joined mainstream politics after signing a 2006 peace pact that led to the elections.
"A positive lesson for India would be to see how we can bring our own Maoists into the political mainstream," Bhaskar said.
Rajan said doing this requires, among other things, improving the quality of governance and delivery of services in the country of 1.2 billion.
"There is an estimated 836 million people living on less than 20 rupees a day, which is 50 cents," said Ajai Sahni, research scholar at New Delhi's Institute for Conflict Management think-tank.
The figures contrast sharply with the rising affluence of some Indians, which has been driven by economic growth of nearly nine percent.
India counts over 100,000 dollar millionaires, while, at the same time, thousands of impoverished farmers commit suicide each year due to heavy debts and crop failure.
"The Maoists understand the contradiction," said Sahni.
The phrase "two Indias" is often used by to describe the great divide between those who have benefited from economic reforms launched in 1991 and the poor left behind, the World Bank has said.
Sahni said Indian Maoists would not follow the lead of their Nepal counterparts and quit violence to join the political mainstream.
"They cannot win elections on the same scale as in Nepal," said Sahni.
But "there is no difference, whatever they may claim to be fighting for. Both are seeking to establish a totalitarian ideological order using local circumstances for their mobilisation," he said.
And thanks to the psychological impact of the Maoists' strong showing, "some surge of violence" can be expected in India, he forecast.
P.V. Ramana, a senior fellow from New Delhi-based think-tank, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis, said "Maoists in India are on an expansion spree" and also predicted violence would rise.
"The government must have dominance over every inch of India to neutralise the Maoist threat," said Sahni.
People living in areas described as "India's hinterland" must be drawn into the system of modern governance with proper attention paid to their need for education, health and water, Sahni added.
"Good governance has to reach every section of people across the land. Otherwise there will be no respite from the Maoists," he warned.
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