Ousted Nepal king eyes comeback chance?

March 24th, 2010 - 4:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 24 (IANS) Domestic travellers flying to the pilgrim city of Janakpur in southern Nepal Wednesday were amazed to find themselves sharing the cabin with deposed king Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah who travelled like a commoner to attend a Hindu religious festival and got a rousing welcome.

On his arrival at the Janakpur airport, the 63-year-old last king of Nepal, who gambled away his legacy by trying to seize absolute power and rule the country himself, was garlanded by loyalists who raised slogans for the restoration of monarchy.

The smiling former monarch, who made his way to the Ram-Janaki temple to attend the Hindu festival of Ram Navami, said he wished for peace in Nepal and for the parties to work on the basis of consensus to achieve that.

The deposed king has set tongues wagging by his increasing public appearances after a period of low profile following the collapse of his army-propped government in 2006.

Since last month, Gyanendra has attended the Kumbha Mela, a Hindu festival in neighbouring Kavre district’s Panauti town, and appeared at a controversial nine-day ritual by a Hindu preacher in Kathmandu.

The deposed king donated money to the ritual that was held to demand the restoration of Hinduism as the state religion and in a rare interaction with journalists, said he supported people’s demand for a Hindu state.

“Hindu rastra jai ho - victory to a Hindu state,” he said before driving away.

The former king has also given an audience to controversial Indian Chandraswamy, who visited Nepal to show solidarity with the demand by various organisations for a Hindu state.

Chandraswamy’s visit was followed by the arrival of former chief of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Rajnath Singh, who said his party supported the call for a Hindu state in Nepal, once the only Hindu kingdom in the world.

With less than 70 days left for the promulgation of a new constitution that is expected to consolidate the secular nature of the nascent Himalayan republic, the former king’s public appearances and the attention that they have been grabbing are being viewed with wariness by his former arch enemies, Nepal’s Maoists.

The former guerrillas, who staged a 10-year revolt to abolish monarchy and Hinduism as the state religion, say Gyanendra’s movements smack of a conspiracy.

“With the political parties failing to reach a consensus and work in harmony, anti-democracy forces will try their best to take advantage of the weakness,” said Maoist deputy chief Narayan Kaji Shrestha.

“The former king is likely to conspire to make a comeback. However, his attempt will not succeed,” he said.

The former king’s aides say he is within his rights as a commoner to attend any festival he wants to. They also say that he has always been a devout Hindu.

With former prime minister and the architect of Nepal’s peace negotiations, Girija Prasad Koirala, passing away last week at the age of 85, there is growing concern that the fragile peace talks can break down and the government may be unable to implement a new constitution by May 28.

There is already a fight in Koirala’s Nepali Congress party over his successor, raising additional doubts about the parties’ ability to bury their differences and work for the national interest.

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