Nepali Times
State Of The State
The day of the pretenders


On 13 February the Maoists celebrated the 13th anniversary of their armed rebellion with pageantry befitting a proletarian party on the road to setting up a People's Republic.

Presumably, such a state will be patterned after North Korea. And our own President Dahal will be crowned Dear Leader. What Comrade Dahal doesn't realise is that nobody except his own YCL takes his presidential imaginings seriously. In fact, it has become a subject of ridicule.

The buzz in town is that royal representatives have succeeded in persuading the Indian establishment about the necessity of retaining some form of monarchy in Nepal. The high-power Congress-I delegation scoffed at the rumours, but there was no mistaking the body language of Digvijay Singh. After all, he is Rajput blue blood himself and a representative of the Empress of India, Sonia Gandhi.

Immediately on arrival at an airport still named after Gyanendra's grandaddy, Diggy Raja told the media everyone had to negotiate in good faith. What we don't know is that on 24 April 2006 there may have been a quadrilateral deal between mainstream parties, the Maoists, the king and Indian mediators on the issue of monarchy. So Sujata Koirala's model of a Cultural Monarchy may not be out of the realm of possibility.

Baburam Bhattarai has once more urged royalists not to obstruct polls. His party will have to do more than that to ensure elections are held at all. "If the King is nationalist, he should help in the smooth conduct of the election," the comrade told a gathering. BP Koirala had said something similar prior to the Referendum in 1980. History proved how na?ve he had been for not learning from history.

Almost every hereditary ruler of Nepal since Jang Bahadur has bowed and scraped before imperial Calcutta and New Delhi to protect privileges. Kings and princes are pragmatic people: they know that nationalism is for the rabbles, not nobles.

Gyanendra knows that had the Indians not backed his grandfather, he would have been the king in 1950s. He also knows that almost every Rana prime minister and their progenies had to find shelter in India once their time was up. Clearly on the instigation of someone else, Gyanendra overplayed his hand with his power grab in 2005. But that doesn't mean he had shut his channels of communication with the Indians. It now looks like elections will not happen unless some space for the suspended king is found in the new scheme of things.

Koirala's Baby King formula is a non-starter. A Cultural Monarchy holds more promise. There are, after all, models of rulers without realms. It may be possible to make space for a ritual royal in the interim constitution and allow His and/or Her Majesty to carry on with temple visits and pay taxes like everyone else.

Unless something is done double-quick on resolving this, 10 April will be another mirage. The list of political bigwigs doubting elections is looking impressive. Sher Bahadur Deuba says: "The elections cannot be held in the current fragile security situation." Shekhar Koirala concurs: "As the security situation is deteriorating, holding the polls is impossible."

Home Minister Krishna Prasad Situala warns that the country will be mired in crisis if elections are not held. Comrade Dahal threatens a "legal takeover" if polls are put off again.

All these worthies are talking at each other, not with each other. They need to be part of the solution rather than add to the cacophony of political gibberish. Do a secret deal on the monarchy if you have to, but stop posturing and get the election over and done with.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)