Sunday, 17 January, 2021
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OPINION

Pro-Monarchists Up The Ante



Narayan Upadhyay

 

The pro-royalists lately held rallies in cities and towns, demanding the country should restore the monarchy and declare the nation a Hindu state. The rallies received wide media coverage and captured the imagination of plenty of people for different reasons.
Given the present political scenario wherein the political parties were held responsible for creating chaos that threatened the newly gained political stability, the pro-royalist rallies attracted an increased number of supporters and participants. Many consider the pro-royalists up their ante whenever the nation's politics veers towards a skewed path. These rallies have been staged when our political parties, notably the ruling dispensation and its leaders, have drawn flak for plunging the nation into a political turmoil.

Convenient moment
As the bickering ruling party leaders have failed to address gaping national problems, their rivals - the pro-monarchists, have found the failure a convenient moment to raise their demands holding rallies of different shapes and sizes that impelled the Prime Minister to hold an all-party meeting to counter the moves of the ex-king's followers. At the meeting, leaders alleged present political uncertainties had encouraged the royalists to hold rallies while a few leaders called these rallies anti-constitutional. The local district administrations warned them of taking tough action if they continued to organise protest rallies despite government's restriction on large gatherings during this challenging COVID-19 time. But the warning has not yet deterred the rally organisers.
The apologists of monarchy have pointed out to the discord among ruling party leaders, which, according to them, is an outcome of the tussle for power. They alleged once the leaders attained powerful positions, they are often involved themselves in corruption and nepotism and push the people's and nation's interests to the back burner. While raising their voice against the present political structure which has given rise to power tussle, corruption, nepotism and nonperformance, the royalists attacked secularism and federalism too.
The move of the pro-royalists aims at reviving the constitutional monarchy. For this they are invoking the constitution of 2047 BS. They still beg for a referendum for ascertaining the people's opinion on monarchy and Hinduism. They claimed the political parties ended the 240-year old monarchy abruptly and turned the nation into a secular state. No one, according to them, sought the opinion of the Nepali citizens on these two significant issues.
Ever since the then Constituent Assembly (CA) rendered the country into a republic state 12 years ago, giving marching orders to the then King Gyanendra, the die-hard supporters of kingship have reprimanded political leaders and criticised the political system, which the country embraced after the promulgation of new constitution. The royalists condemn secularism for they hold in high deference former monarchs as an incarnation of a Hindu deity and a purveyor of Hinduism in the country. In the meantime, they accuse many political leaders of becoming "small kings", following a sea change in their lifestyle after they attained significant political or ministerial portfolios.
But even after crying hoarse over the present political arrangement, the pro-monarchists will find it impossible to achieve their goals. Barring one or two, the major political parties, who lead a great number of the Nepalis, have so far adhered firmly to the constitutional arrangement that has prevented the royalists to overturn the democratic republic and federal structure. The then CPN-Maoist, the UML and Nepali Congress and many others spent many years and energy in preparing the present charter through the elected CA. As such, the stance of major parties so far has proved to be a thorn in the pro-monarchists' flesh.
Despite making a shrill cry for the restoration of monarchy, staging rallies, and organising religious and cultural activities, the ex-monarch supporters have been facing an uphill battle in attaining the objectives of restoring what they call a constitutional monarch. This situation has frustrated the royalists and their angry outbursts against present system, political parties are stemming out of this frustration.
In the meantime, several others incidents of the past have posed a difficulty for them. Many people have not yet forgotten the ex-King Gyanendra's usurpation of power after he became the monarch following royal palace massacre in 2001. Though he had been crowned King at the most precarious time in the nation's history, he went to become a totalitarian monarch, compelling the then political parties to join forces with the then outlawed Maoists.
The popular uprising of 2006 led to the creation of the historic CA that threw him out of power and palace. The former King has not yet become able to win back the hearts of a large section of the Nepali population, though he has tried hard. He has been taking part in many religious and cultural functions across the nation ever since he was dethroned. The wayward lifestyle of his son, former crown prince Paras, on the other, has made the matter worse for the ex-King and his followers.
The ex-king supporters, while rallying to justify their points, usually bring to our attention the turbulent politics and a heightened corruption and nepotism allegedly perpetrated by political parties and leaders. These charges have many buyers but are unlikely to induce any change in the existing political structure.
Everyone in the country will acknowledge that a massive political commotion, up to the level of the 2006 uprising or more, may require if the supporters of monarchy want to see any ray of hope. Such an uprising must have popular support from the main political parties. With no parties throwing their weight behind the idea of altering present political structure, no change is likely in the existing system. For the royalists, the revival of monarchy appears a distant hope.

Right to protest
However, in democracy, people, irrespective of their political leaning or standing in the society, do reserve the rights to hold peaceful rallies, meetings to put forth demands and can criticise the opposition. The ruling dispensation and the political parties must not prohibit the pro-royalists from organising peaceful rallies or meetings. The recent pro-royalist rallies, on the other, are a wake-up call to our political parties embroiled in intra-party wrangling and inter-party differences over key political issues. Unless our leaders and parties pull together to end turmoil, and come clean of all charges levelled against them, elements hostile to the present political system will continue to raise their heads.

(Upadhyay is Deputy Executive Editor of The Rising Nepal. nara.upadhyay@gmail.com) 

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