Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
"Reign, not rule"

Interview with Biswa Bandu Thapa, president of the RPP parliamentary committee

What is your take on the recent political changes?
The process of change started with the dissolution of the House of Representatives three years ago. Who was the main instigator is not certain but it was Sher Bahadur Deuba or someone higher. Soon afterwards, the prime minister was advised to postpone elections and Girija Prasad Koirala, Madhab Kumar Nepal and Surya Bahadur Thapa unanimously agreed. These leaders should have realised that the PM does not have the authority to change the election date. The king should have told Deuba that constitutional provisions did not grant him such authority. When the king used Article 127 to dismiss the PM, the people's representatives should have said the move was wrong. They should have proposed restoration of parliament even when the PM failed to do so. And in the absence of parliament, Article 128 could have been used to discuss forming of a government with the leaders.

What about the royal-appointed governments?
Lokendra Bahadur Chand couldn't bring in anyone from any party, not even from the RPP. Later, with Surya Bahadur Thapa there was hope that he would convince the UML and NC to join. But he couldn't. Deuba managed to get the UML on board. The RPP has accepted all governments and has not called them 'regressive'. But now, the RPP is in a difficult position since this government is formed under the chairmanship of the king who asked for three years to do the job. The king's order is like an elephant's tusk. It is tough but when the tusk falls off, it never grows back. Chand, Thapa and Deuba, each got a year to hold elections and were sacked when they couldn't. Yet the king has given himself three years for the same job. Does this mean the tusk is falling off? The RPP wants to see the government of the people but we also want to ensure that monarchy is not in danger. The king is the symbol of nationalism. Whenever Nepal is weak, India steps in. The king is the institution that keeps our country strong, for which monarchy must be constitutional. The citizenry wants an elected government. The king is the constitution's guardian but there needs to be harmony between parties for healthy politics. Foreign countries, including India gives more importance to elections than to peace.

So, what now?
We are still called the king's party though we were never consulted when Chand or Thapa were appointed prime ministers. Still we supported the king. That has changed now, UML and NC leaders should realise this. They should prove their statesmanship. There is no leader like BP Koirala. He did not talk about changing the constitution but his statesmanship led to the fall of the Panchayat. Girija's daughter Sujata is in Delhi crying herself hoarse about a republic while NC spokesman Arjun Narsingh is saying something else in Kathmandu. I'm not sure about Girija's expectations. We need to push for elections.

What will the RPP's policy be now?
The king cannot afford to make everyone rebel against him. Haven't the parties always said he is the keeper of the constitution? The constitution says the king must walk with the parties. But we say elections are necessary. Peace is not the only precondition to holding elections. The army can be mobilised to control the Maoists if they create trouble.

Was the international response towards the February First move expected?
Tulsi Giri has called attention to international double standards: how the Americans had to act post 9/11 and India had to act in Kashmir, so Nepal must also act as it sees fit. But they never stopped their democratic process. Instead, they held elections to ensure mass support. Here, constitutional and democratic processes have been stalled. The king has the authority to reign, not rule.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)