The time has come. The king has decided that it was no use ruling without the participation of the people and realised that people have moved on from the time of his father and the first royal takeover of the democratic process.
It is true that a brake to the downward slide in governance was urgent as part of the checks and balances in democracy (and we should have provision for similar checks in the future). But to allow all and sundry to have a stab at ruling the country was totally out of tune with the times. People will appreciate King Gyanendra as someone who will feel the pulse of the country by continuing to wade amongst the masses, gathering the proven doers in the community around him to brainstorm about the future of Nepal, involving himself in the social sector and above all, providing the nation with inspirational leadership.
This is a big role for any person and the nation needs the king to fill that role. So, congratulations Your Majesty, for announcing parliamentary elections and giving up the ghost of the Absolute Monarch.
Without taking much time to consider all possibilities we already have calls from the political parties to boycott the electoral process, being egged on, no less, by the 'civil society'. It seems petulant and silly to deny the person who usurped power from you the chance to give it back. As a citizen and voter, my suggestion to the political parties would be to accept the challenge of the elections because that is what political parties do: take part in periodic elections.
Of course, you should demand certain conditions for fair elections in the present messy situation. Off the top of my head these might include an electoral government under a neutral non-political person as prime minister, a free press, international observers, a strict code of conduct for the security forces and other desirable conditions for people to exercise their free will. But waiting for the end of the festivities to start another bout of 'agitation against regression' with the help of activists and assorted students, with the masses deaf to increasingly shrill anti-monarchy slogans, whilst rejecting the offered elections will be playing with the future of the Nepali people.
And please stop mistaking your activists for the people at large with whom you never seem to be talking, much less listening. To be sure, power has to return to the leaders chosen by the people and elections are the only way for that to happen. A chilling thought for the will-not-let-it-happen brigade: where will you be if the Maoist insurgents decide to join the political process and take part in the elections while you sit on the sidelines? Please also understand that it is just possible that the silent majority may still want a benign role for the monarchy and it may be up to the political parties truly representing the people to wish to keep it that way.
The Maoist insurgents have brought in undoubted change in the way people think of themselves in the backwaters of Nepal. Most of it is the result of terror of course but the remotest and the most deprived areas have been put on the map, so to speak. No future political force in this country will be able to ignore their plight and that is good. But there is nothing to suggest that the Maoists will be the ones to serve these people. Communist utopia is just that: not achievable, and especially not by the methods adopted.
One has the distinct impression that the Maoist movement has moved as far as it can go. Since its support is obtained by coercion, there is no way it can be sustained any further. Of course, they can prolong the misery for Nepal for years to come. But is that what they want?
I think the time has come for them to put down their guns and take up the advantage of their position in a political way. The king has offered a way out. Do they have the courage to take it?
Dr Narayan B Thapa is a paediatric surgeon.