Five errors that cost Gyanendra his crown

May 29th, 2008 - 7:06 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 29 (IANS) Destiny gave Nepal’s last monarch Gyanendra two chances to ascend the throne though normally he would never have been king. But the headstrong ruler gambled away his 239-year-old crown through a series of costly errors. His first fatal mistake was not to rectify the image the nation had of him when he was crowned king in 2001 following the midnight massacre in the royal palace that killed the then king Birendra and nine more members of the royal family.

Gyanendra was regarded as an arrogant prince with questionable business deals. Stories abound of him throwing a glass of whiskey in his elder brother’s face to show his displeasure when the pragmatic Birendra, facing a national uprising in 1990, decided to relinquish monarchy’s iron grip on power and agree to become a constitutional monarch.

Craftiness and ambition were added to arrogance when from 2002, he began to appoint a series of handpicked governments, a manoeuvre against which veteran politician Girija Prasad Koirala warned the nation, darkly describing it as a “grand design” schemed for deeper ends.

The warning came true in 2005 when the king, tired of pretences, chose to capture power in a midnight bloodless coup, just as his father Mahendra had done in the past, and declared himself chairman of the new government.

His 14-month absolute rule gave the king ample time to improve things. However, he frittered away his chances, creating the image of a feudal, superstitious tyrant who took no major decision without consulting his army of astrologers and offering sacrifices to propitiate the gods.

The royal visits to temples became a matter of derision at home and abroad. But so deeply was the king dissociated from reality that he had no inkling of the medieval image he was presenting to the world.

The second weakness that pulled him down was his own kin.

His son and then crown prince Paras was his Achilles’ heel, hated by the people for his violent ways. Even if people had accepted Gyanendra as king, they baulked at the thought of Paras succeeding him.

Paras even caused a temporary estrangement between the king and his uncle by marriage as well as trusted business partner Prabhakar Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana by assaulting Rana’s son in a public place.

One single public rebuke from the king to his wayward son would have earned him public approval. Instead, he chose to pamper his heir at the cost of public good will.

Towards the end of his reign, the king was offered a chance by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to save his dynasty.

If he had abdicated in favour of his baby grandson Hridayendra, public anger against him and his son might have been appeased.

But Gyanendra chose to safeguard his interests rather than his lineage and in the end, could protect neither.

The third disastrous mistake was in the selection of advisers.

The king showed poor political judgement both in the selection of his cabinet and the kitchen cabinet that actually ruled Nepal during his direct rule.

“My decision to join the royal cabinet was a mistake that cost me my political career,” says Roshan Karki, once the respected spokesperson of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party, one of Nepal’s oldest parties, who was assistant minister during the king’s direct rule.

“During my tenure, I had the feeling that the government was not controlled by the king. Rather, it was the kitchen cabinet that made all the decisions.”

The coterie advised the king to level graft charges against former ministers and jail them. It advised him to make costly arms deals with China that antagonised Nepal’s powerful neighbour India and it incited him to try put down the Maoist rebellion by force when history had shown it to be an impossible task, given Nepal’s difficult terrain.

His foreign policy proved a dismal fourth fiasco, hastening his downfall.

The king misjudged India’s influence and sought to cosy up to China and Pakistan to win support for his regime. He snubbed India’s request for support to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council and denied audience to the Indian envoy in Nepal.

The final mistake he made was to underestimate his b

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