Did India exile shape Nepal king’s fate?

April 9th, 2008 - 12:27 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 9 (IANS) In a land where myths and superstitions play a dominant role, history too seems to have played a major part in shaping the future of Nepal and the destiny of its Shah kings. In New Delhi’s Nehru Memorial Museum and Library there exists a wealth of documents, including tapes of conversation with one of the prime shapers of Nepal’s history, which indicates that happenings in the late 1940s have a direct link to the country’s first constituent assembly election on Thursday.

B.P. Koirala, Nepal’s first elected prime minister and one of the architects of the pro-democracy movement in 1950 that succeeded in ending the authoritarian regime of the dynastic Rana prime ministers, gave a series of interviews nearly 30 years ago unfolding the plan his Nepali Congress had at that time for the royal family.

However, the plan was demolished by India, which too was keen on bringing the royal family under its own control in order to have a better grip on Nepal’s politics.

Koirala headed the Nepali Congress (NC), now the biggest party in parliament and fighting the constituent assembly election.

However, in the 1940s, the party was flirting with an armed movement, much as the Maoists did in the 1990s, planning to overthrow the Rana prime ministers by waging a civil war.

“We had an army of 4,000-5,000,” Koirala, elder brother of current Nepal premier Girija Prasad Koirala, said in the interviews.

“We were planning a revolutionary movement.”

The wily leader sought the help of the army, always a key factor in Nepal’s politics.

The party approached a disgruntled senior army official, who was in charge of the second largest army contingent.

The battalion was posted in the hilly district of Palpa, close to Kathmandu, and it was there that Koirala planned to spirit away the then king Tribhuvan, a virtual prisoner of the Ranas.

“I am afraid the then Indian ambassador to Nepal C.P.N. Singh got wind of the plan,” Koirala said. “Singh wanted to take the king to New Delhi. Both of us wanted to bring the king under our control.”

However, when the NC sent a commando unit to secretly escort the king to Palpa, some of the soldiers were captured by the Rana government and tortured into revealing details of the plan.

“The king was troubled and felt we would not be able to guarantee his security,” Koirala said.

Subsequently, Tribhuvan decided to throw in his lot with India and escaped from the palace to the Indian embassy in Kathmandu with his son Mahendra and grandson Birendra.

The trio were flown to New Delhi by helicopter and India came to have a major say in Nepal’s politics.

The Ranas tried to downplay India’s influence and crowned the other minor grandson the fleeing king had left behind.

Thus, by a quirk of fate, Gyanendra, the current king, ascended the throne when he was barely four.

If his family had remained in Nepal, things could have taken a different turn.

Gyanendra might have never become king and subsequently, might have never tried to wrest absolute power with an army-backed coup in 2005 that triggered a public disenchantment with the royal family and gave a fillip to the Maoist demand for the constituent assembly election.

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