Nepal’s ousted king gets unexpected birthday gift

July 7th, 2010 - 1:40 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 7 (IANS) On his 63rd birthday Wednesday, Nepal’s deposed king Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah received an unexpected gift from the political parties who failed to form a new government within the deadline laid down by President Ram Baran Yadav.

The growing hostility among the three major parties is a shot in the arm for the ousted king and royalists and keeps alive the possibility of the restoration of monarchy.

Gyanendra, the longest-living male in his dynasty that has a dark record of early fatalities, celebrated his 63rd birthday in his private residence Nirmal Niwas, where he had lived before he became king in 2001 after a massacre killed then king Birendra and nine more royals.

Despite the official abolition of monarchy two years ago, diehard royalists bearing flowers, the national flag and banners demanding the restoration of monarchy, queued up before the former king’s residence to pledge allegiance.

The crowds felt vindicated by the parties’ failure to come up with a national government by Wednesday.

“The king should have been given a chance,” said Bharat Lamichhane, a 42-year-old businessman who had come to wish Gyanendra a long life and return to power. “He may have made some mistakes during his short rule but there was law and order, price stability and no power cuts during his direct rule.

“Now instead of one king, we have 601 kings and there is no security; inflation is mounting and power cuts have destroyed the nation’s economy.”

Lamichhane was referring to Nepal’s elected parliament with 601 MPs that took over the king’s powers in 2008.

The parliament, which also serves as Nepal’s constituent assembly, was to have drafted a new constitution in May.

The new statute would have been a decisive blow for the crown as it would have reinforced Nepal, once the only Hindu kingdom in the world, as a secular republic.

But the parties, fighting each other for power, failed to write the new constitution and the constitution deadline was extended by a year to May 2011.

Now there is growing apprehension that the new deadline will also go by without a new constitution. Though more than a month has elapsed, the statute has made no progress as the parties remain locked in a furious tussle for power.

Even after Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned June 30 under a protracted Maoist siege, the parties have failed to reach an understanding on power-sharing with all three demanding the premier’s post.

On Wednesday, the warring parties decided to seek an extension for the formation of a new, all-party government.

A meeting of the top leaders of the three parties agreed to request the president to extend the deadline by five days.

As the parties’ popularity dips due to the naked squabble for power, the former king’s is rising.

This year, after keeping a low profile for a long time, Gyanendra began visiting districts in southern Nepal that he had completely ignored during his reign.

Surprisingly, the Terai, once the stronghold of the parties, has been giving him a tumultuous welcome with demands for the restoration of monarchy.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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