King’s men bite dust in Nepal’s battle royale

April 13th, 2008 - 1:26 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 13 (IANS) The end of Nepal’s 239-year-old royal dynasty loomed large with supporters of embattled King Gyanendra biting the dust in Thursday’s battle royale and the crown’s dreaded challenger, the former Maoist guerrillas, poised for a landslide victory. The only large party that fought the historic constituent assembly election avowing support for Nepal’s beleaguered monarchy was on the verge of annihilation.

The Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, headed by former royalist minister Kamal Thapa, had fielded 207 contestants for the 240 seats under the first past the post system.

However, the party was routed with none of its contestants coming even a close third. Thapa, the tough home minister during the violence filled last days of the king’s rule in 2006, lost in his constituency Makwanpur.

Another royalist, former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, had been defeated in his Dhankuta district, where he had always won in the past.

Thapa, who heads the Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP), was appointed premier by the king in 2003. He split the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), one of the oldest parties in Nepal, to support the king’s indirect rule in the years before the coup of 2005.

Though the anti-king wave sweeping Nepal after the royal coup forced Thapa to support a republic, his and his party’s allegiance were always suspect and both paid dearly.

Also coming under the poll axe was the RPP itself, once a royalist party that however distanced itself from the king after the coup.

RPP chief Pashupati Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, the grandson of the last all-powerful Rana prime minister of Nepal and related by marriage to India’s erstwhile Scindia royal family of Gwalior and Human Resources Development Minister Arjun Singh, was trailing in his Sindhupalchowk constituency, from where he had won the last three elections.

Of the 71 seats declared so far, neither the RPP, RPP-Nepal or RJP had been able to bag a single seat while debutant ethnic parties from the Terai fared much better.

Even Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s ruling Nepali Congress party, which had seesawed between a ceremonial king and a baby king, was in danger of being relegated to the third position after the Communists began clawing back to grab poor second to the victorious Maoists.

Probably the hardest blow for Koirala and monarchy was the lurking defeat of the prime minister’s daughter Sujata Koirala, who while toeing the party line in favour of a republic was personally in favour of a ceremonial monarch.

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