Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press
King meets communist

"I have devoted most of my life to the communist cause and I wish to die a communist. Despite all this, I am a responsible citizen. First I am a Nepali and then a communist. I have become a nationalist communist for several reasons.

It is because of this that the first time I met His Majesty [King Birendra], I was overcome with respect for him. This was late in 1993 (Karthik 2050), in the Mangal Sadan of Narayanhiti Darbar. Madhav Kumar Nepal, then secretary of the UML, was away, and I had to meet the king in his absence. Even our party president, Man Mohan Adhikary said if the monarch desired it, I should see him. The chief palace secretary Revati Raman Khanal informed me about my audience with His Majesty. I do not remember the exact day or date-it's a weakness of mine. I think it was mid-November. I reached the palace around 6pm. I was asked to dress in daura-suruwal, with a coat and Nepali cap. Since it was my first meeting with His Majesty, I was worried about the (formal) language I was to use, in which I was not very proficient.

I was called inside at 6.30. I was taken into a very big room, in the centre was a tea table, on the east of it was a very comfortable-looking black leather sofa, on its west an armless chair, like those we usually keep in dining rooms, and a similar chair exactly south of the table. When I entered, His Majesty was already seated on the sofa, smoking a cigar. As soon as I entered, I did Namaskar. The king acknowledged and asked me to be seated. He signalled to Khanal to be seated too. Khanal, who was carrying a pen and notebook, sat down. I also sat down and the king started speaking. He said, "So tell me, Bam Dev, how have you analysed the political situation?" The king was wearing an old and somewhat dirty topi, a checked shirt, suruwal, a faded and pretty old green sweater and black shoes. He was seated on a sofa and I had to sit on an ordinary chair-I felt that this was a classic case of the working of a feudal mindset. And a psychological way of trying to establish control over the other party at the meeting. On the other hand, I felt he was wearing those old clothes on purpose, to prove an ideological affinity with us communists. Besides, I also thought the king was a real miser.

I then started putting forth my views. We were so engrossed in our dialogue that we did not realise time was flying. We talked for roughly one-and-a-half hours. Earlier they had told me that I would be allowed a maximum of 45 minutes. His Majesty asked me a lot of questions. As I answered, I realised that Khanal was also cross-questioning me. I felt the secretary was being rude and crass. I guessed that the whole situation had been decided earlier. His Majesty said, "The constitution did not put in adequate checks and balances, which caused imbalances between government and the monarchy. I don't intend to, but I also can not go to the public and explain to them the work I have done for the benefit of nation and people. The concerned agencies should do this responsibily. Democracy must be strengthened through practice. People tell me that the UML constitution wants to deal with the monarchy in a different way." He then talked of other issues.

During our interaction I told the king that the UML fully respected the letter and spirit of the constitution. All relations between the monarchy, the legislature, parliament and the judiciary would be abided by in accordance with it, and this was what we believed in. Since we were communists, we could not change our ideological line but would definitely bring about changes in certain aspects. Since I had recently returned from a visit to North Korea, my visit was also a subject of conversation. I then told the king that all monarchs of today had to be like Sihanouk of Cambodia. After this I told him that Nepali communists were nationalists to the core. I stressed the fact that communists treated matters of the nation with more gravity than they treated communist and ideological issues. I congratulated him on his democratic behaviour and the role he played while staying within the parameters of the constitution. I further stated that the situation at the time demanded that the monarch and the communists work together for the benefit of the country. His Majesty did not respond to any of the issues I raised. The chief secretary was now indicating the time. Thrice, the ADC had entered the room because of the time we had spent. Lastly, because it was not possible to meet the head of state frequently, I asked the king for a response to all that I had placed before him. He did not speak. I got up from my chair, did Namaskar and again repeated my request. Still he did not say a word. I again repeated, "Your Majesty, for the sake of the Nepali people and the nation, please reply to my proposal." He then spoke, "Ok, Bam Devji, for the sake of the people and for the nation, I am prepared to work with the communists. I will tell my people to act accordingly. I give you my word."

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)