Nepali Times
"I will work to bridge the gap between the king and the parties."

Suave and fluently bilingual, Oxford graduate Pashupati Shumsher JB Rana was recently elected chairman of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP). Rana now leads a centre-right party whose other leader is the king's nominated prime minister. Nepali Times asked him about this, and his own future plans. Excerpts:

Nepali Times: What are your priorities for the RPP now that you have been elected leader?
Pashupati Shumshere JB Rana: As we all know, the gap seems to be widening between His Majesty the King and parliamentary political parties. I will work towards bridging the gap. This has become urgent since the sovereign people want the restoration of peace as early as possible. But this can't be done unless all the forces within the constitution come together. Only then will negotiations with the Maoists be possible.

But who should take initiative, the king or the parties?
His Majesty has already taken the initiative in this regard by granting audiences to Girija babu and Madhavji. Of course, the situation seems exaggerated from the side of the political parties. They seem to be toughening their stands in the mass meetings. But we must find a practical way out. In fact, if we are really committed to peace, such a deadlock is against everybody's interests.

So, what could be the meeting point?
First of all, all should put aside their prejudices. We must admit that the parliament failed to find a way out to the problem of Maoist insurgency for nearly three years. So, there is no guarantee that the restoration of parliament would help to resolve the problem. All of us should accept that restoration of peace is the main agenda at present. We should not try to promote our individual agendas. If we agree to do away with our baggage, we can certainly work out a common agenda.

Do you have a workable agenda to achieve this?
It's not my agenda. Neither do I have a magic wand. The question is that of good will and good intentions. We should find a common platform that is agreeable to all seven parties in the dissolved parliament and His Majesty. We have seen that the Maoists have been able to keep the establishment divided over the last three or four years. G P Koirala was their enemy number one till sometime back. Now, they are befriending him. So, if the establishment agrees to come together, the Maoists too would be forced to come to the negotiating table.

What do you think could be the points of agreement as and when Maoists agree to come over for dialogue?
It is obvious that the parliamentary parties and government can agree on the bottomline of constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy. We have to take into account that the Nepali establishment will also be getting the support of the worldwide front against terrorism. In that case, it will be possible to bring the Maoists to a point of agreement through dialogue.

How could this be possible when the political parties are protesting against the October Fourth royal move?
The job we, political parties, have is to represent the aspirations of the sovereign Nepali people. We must admit that the present situation came into being as we failed to do that. So, let's honour the popular mandate.

Two years ago you went on record to say that Nepal is passing through one of the worst crises in its history. Has there been any improvement? Where does this crisis emanate from?
The crisis still persists. This crisis emanates from the very deep socio-economic problems that abound in the country for the last several decades and poor governance, especially over the last 12 or 13 years. Until we succeed in cutting out corruption and resolving major socio-economic problems including that of janajatis, backward ethnic groups in the tarai, dalits and women, we can't overcome this crisis. At the same time, our administration must be allowed to function in a neutral basis and on the basis of merit. Constant interference in administration will make it dysfunctional and not capable of dealing with new challenges.

Do you see any external dimensions to this crisis, especially the Maoist insurgency?
The Maoist insurgency does have a regional dimension in the sense that there are very similar movements in other parts of the subcontinent such as People's War Group (PWG) and Maoist Communist Center (MCC). The Maoist parties operating in the region have also set up their regional network. The geopolitical affects us in the sense that if the situation persists, a security vacuum would emerge here. As we are located between two nuclear powers to the north and south, a very dangerous situation could unfold. So, it is not in the interest of either India or China to let instability in Nepal prolong itself.

Based on the latest situation on ground, how would you foresee the Nepali politics taking its turn in the year 2003?
The whole thing rests on whether all the forces within the constitution come together or not. If they can come together then there is a chance. Otherwise, the situation could further deteriorate. What is important is all of us must work together to turn the unpredictable situation into a predictable one.

What is the basic tenet of your party?
It is based on four broad principles: multi-party democracy, constitutional monarchy, liberalism and nationalism. By liberalism, we mean protection of people's individual freedom from state intervention. That means human rights and the rule of law has its roots in the thoughts propounded by John Stuart Mill, John Locke, among others. These four principles are like four pillars of a table. Our party won't be able to stand up if one of these pillars gets shortened.

But some suspect that you are in favour of an active monarchy?
That is not true. I as well as my party believe in constitutional monarchy that is in accordance with multi-party democracy. It is because monarchy has contributed a lot in nation building as well as modernisation of this kingdom. All of us want to remain under the umbrella of constitutional monarchy for any foreseeable future. This is possible only if the monarchy functions within the sphere of the country's constitution.

Has your party become rightwing after it adopted the line of a "more influential" role for the monarchy and the departure of Surya Bahadur Thapa?
Actually it was the central committee chaired by Surya Bahadur Thapa that adopted the line of a more influential role for the king four months ago. The Pokhara convention merely ratified that decision. The political paper restricts that influential role within the confines of the constitution, so we haven't deviated even an inch from the multiparty mainstream.

As a prominent politician, you must have an ambition to become the Prime Minister. Would you prefer to be a popularly elected prime minister or a prime minister appointed by the king?
What kind of a question is that? It may be natural for a politician to aim high. But at the moment, our party leader is already the prime minister, so I would focus all my energies on delivering as the chairman of
my party.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)