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Pushing and Pulling the Monarchy

Issue 51, December 23, 2007

By Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

While a wave of enthusiasm for declaring Nepal a republic has been spreading throughout Nepal, even the political parties such as the Nepali Congress (NC) and Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) loyal to the monarchy have removed the provision for the constitutional monarchy from their party statute, and even some NC senior leaders have realized that the majority of the Nepalese people want declaring Nepal a republic, some senior leaders including Sujata Koirala the daughter of incumbent Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala have been making efforts on saving the monarchy from extinction.

On Tuesday, December 11, 2007, the fourth national convention of the RPP replaced the term ‘constitutional monarchy’ with the ‘secular position’ on the monarchy in its party statute. Some general convention representatives proposed for a referendum on the monarchy. The convention also gave the full authority to the newly re-elected party Chairman Pashupati SJB Rana and senior leader Lokendra Bahadur Chand to make decisions on the issues concerning the monarchy. Talking to the reporters, Chairman Rana said that his party would clarify its position on the monarchy after the date for the constituent assembly election was set. [1]

On Wednesday, December 05, 2007, the Interim Legislature forwarded three proposed bills to the concerned parliamentary committees for finalizing them before they are endorsed by the full meeting of the Interim Legislature. It included the Bill on Nepal Trust that has made the provision for transferring all the properties of late king Birendra and his family members to a trust and using them for national interest. According to the provision made in the Bill, the revenue generated by the property would be used for schools, universities, hospitals and health posts, and for the back-up programs such as the welfare of the people living under the poverty line and the underprivileged people, the protection of senior citizens, single women, disabled and orphans, adult education and literacy and running other works of national interest. The Prime Minister will be the patron of the trust. A committee under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary of the Nepal Government would manage and preserve the property. [2]

A political analyst at the American Embassy in Kathmandu and son of the former Attorney General of Nepal, Subodh Kumar Singh claimed in his book titled “The Return of the Mauryas” that Gyanendra's ancestors were descendants of the Magar community, a warrior clan of Mongoloid stock that produced the famed Gorkha warriors.  In a worse blow to the status-conscious royalty, he said the first kings of the Shah dynasty had matrimonial links with the Sen Kings of Nepal, who were actually Tharus. The Tharu kings gave their daughters in marriage to the Shahs but in the course of time, the ambitious Shahs turned upon their cousins and uncles and wrested away their kingdoms. As the fortune of the Sens plummeted and the Shahs rose, historians were directed to rewrite history, glorifying the Shahs and dissociating them from the Sens. Today, the Tharus are a landless people at the bottom of Nepal's social ladder, treated as bonded laborers. "I would not have been able to write this book if the democracy movement had not happened," said Singh, himself a proud Tharu. [3]

Speaking at a press conference held on Saturday, December 08, 2007, at the end of his party's central working committee meeting, Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP) Chairman Surya Bahadur Thapa ruled out the army intervention or the king's comeback if the date for the CA election was not set by December 15. "I don't see any chances of the king making a comeback," he said. "I have always laid emphasis on the elections and said that the fate of monarchy should be left for the people to decide, not the nominated parliament," the Former Prime Minister said, referring to the parliament's directives to the government to "initiate the process for a republic". The parliament, he said, has no right to decide on a republic. [4]

On December 09, 2007, speaking at the special hour of the House session, CPN-Maoist Leader and Former Minister Dev Gurung asked the parliament to take actions against the NC legislators, who came out openly in support of the monarchy. A number of NC legislators including Govinda Raj Joshi, Khum Bahadur Khadka, JP Gupta, Tara Nath Ranabhat, Bijaya Gachhedar and Chiranjivi Wagle had spoken in favor of the king at a function in Kathmandu on December 08, 2007. Former Minister Gurung said that the regressive forces and the foreign forces wanted anarchy in the country and to benefit from it. “Therefore, Prachanda called for an alliance with the royalist nationalists. Now, the nationalists and democratic forces should unite to resolve the problem of the country otherwise it is going to create serious challenges in the country,” he said. [5]

On Saturday, December 08, 2007, four former ministers of the Koirala's Nepali Congress party as well as a former speaker flayed the Maoist demands to sack the king immediately without waiting for the elections and adopt a fully proportional electoral system. The former ministers are arguing that the demands would cause the nation to disintegrate. Former Speaker Tara Nath Ranabhat sidelined by the NC for supporting King Gyanendra was lobbying to retain the Nepal's two-century-old monarchy. 'The crown is essential for the national unity,' Ranabhat said at a public program in Kathmandu on Saturday, December 08, 2007. 'Any effort to replace him would weaken the Nepali Congress.' The open support for the king comes at a time when the oldest royalist party in Nepal, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, decided to switch over to a republic from the constitutional monarchy. Former ministers such as Govinda Raj Joshi, Khum Bahadur Khadka, Bijay Gachhedar and Chiranjivi Wagle as well as senior NC leader K.B. Gurung have raised the banner of a revolt against the Maoists’ call for a republic. The dissident leaders’ revolt is a shot in the arm for the cornered king, who besides running the danger of losing his crown now also faces the prospect of his inherited property including the royal palace taken away by a trust for public welfare. [6]

The Special Court had convicted Chiranjivi Wagle of the corruption in the case filed by the Commission on Investigation into Abuse of Authority (CIAA). Similarly, the CIAA had filed a case against Govinda Raj Joshi, and Khum Bahadur Khadka charging them of corruption. Tara Nath Ranabhat was the former Speaker of the dissolved House of Representatives, and had enjoyed all sorts of benefits of the Speaker as long as it remained dissolved; however, after the House was reinstated by the people’s power in April 2006, he resigned from the position of the Speaker. Logically thinking Nepalis believed that the palace must have provided them with a handsome amount of money to make them come out so openly in favor of the monarchy, and betray the Nepalese people’s aspirations for republic demonstrated in the April Movement of 2006. The same guys including Sujata Koirala daughter of incumbent Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala attempted to block the passage of the resolution by the NC Mahasamiti (General Committee) in favor of deleting the provision for the constitutional monarchy made in the NC statute. The local media reported that the palace had paid them a huge amount of money to do so. However, they were not successful in blocking the passage of the resolution, as the majority of the Mahasamiti members were against the monarchy in any form. If the NC top leaders did not take actions against unscrupulous NC central leaders such as Govinda Raj Joshi, Khum Bahadur Khadka, Bijay Gachhedar, Tara Nath Ranabhat and Chiranjivi Wagle it would certainly defame the entire family of the NC.

On Sunday, December 09, 2007, speaking at the winter session of the Interim Legislature, the CPN-UML, CPN-Maoist and CPN-Unified legislators have taken the statements of some NC central leaders on ‘sidelining the monarchy could lead the country to an accident’ seriously, and said that such statements were against the spirit of the people’s movement and could weaken the seven-party unity. The NC leaders close to the palace openly came out in support of the monarchy at a time when the seven political parties including the NC have intensified consultations for proclaiming Nepal a republic through the Interim Legislator. The NC leaders were speaking in support of the monarchy at a function held by the BP Study Center in Kathmandu on Saturday, December 08, 2007. [7]

On December 09, 2007, speaking at a press meet held by the Nepal Press Union in Palpa, Former Prime Minister and senior NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba said that the Constitutional Assembly (CA) elections would not be necessary if the Interim Legislator were to declare Nepal a republic. He was referring to the Maoist’s pressure on declaring the country a republic prior to the CA elections. Former Prime Minister Deuba said that the people should have the rights to overthrow the monarchy, not the seven parties. He emphasized on the early CA elections, but expressed his opposition to the idea of adopting a fully proportional representation system for the elections. [8]

On Sunday, December 09, 2007, addressing the party cadres at Tamghas of the Gulmi district, Former Prime Minister and senior NC leader Sher Bahadur Deuba said, "Going for a fully proportionate representation (PR) system for the election to the constituent assembly, as demanded by the Maoists, would mean fragmentation of the nation." He said that a small country such as Nepal would be torn apart by the demands of various linguistic communities. [9]

Responding to a question of media people in Bhairahawa on December 11, 2007, Former Prime Minister and senior Nepali Congress leader Sher Bahadur Deuba said, “we had declared a tie-up with the king. I have a tag as a royal prime minister. This relationship was broken up after the royal coup of February 1, 2005 (2061 B.S. on Magh 19). However, the Maoists have undeclared alliance with the suspended-king.” Therefore, the Maoists might have been cultivating secret ties with the suspended-king. The latest statement of Maoist Chairman Prachanda in which he said that the nationalist forces close to the king should be accommodated to give outlet to the political crisis confirmed this very fact, former Prime Minister Deuba argued. [10]

In October 2002, Former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba went to the then-king Gyanendra with the proposal for calling off the general elections scheduled for November on the pretext of the ongoing conflict with the Maoists. The king charged him with the incompetence of holding the elections and fired him from the job for that matter although he was the elected Prime Minister and the king had no constitutional authority to fire the elected Prime Minister.

The monarchy has been on the verge of extinction. The Interim Constitution has totally ignored the monarchy, and the king remained suspended. However, the king has been very active through his proxies such as the NC senior leaders mostly with the tainted reputation.


[1] mk Dec 11 07, “RPP removes monarchy from party statute”

[2] The Rising Nepal, December 06, 2007, “Bills sent to House panel Late King's assets to be used for welfare of poor”

[3] The Times of India, December 09, 2007, “Book flattens Nepal king's divine myth”

[4] The Himalayan Times, December 09, 2007, “Thapa Sees No Chance of King Making a Comeback”

[5] The Himalayan Times, December 09, 2007, “Punish NC’s pro-king MPs: Dev Gurung”

[6], December 09, 2007, “Nepal PM's party men back king, Maoists issue ultimatum”

[7], December 09, 2007, Kantipur Report, “Left MPs flay NC leaders for pro-King remarks”

[8], December 09, 2007, Kantipur Report “CA polls irrelevant if republic is proclaimed now: Deuba”

[9] The Himalayan Times, December 10, 2007, “PR System Will Split Nation: Deuba”

[10] The Rising Nepal, December 12, 2007, “Communal conflict will lead nation to disintegration: Deuba”; Dec 11 07, “Maoists might be rubbing shoulders with King: Deuba”

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