Former king is suitable candidate for new head of state, aide saysIn a statement issued on Democracy Day, former king Gyanendra Shah has offered to collaborate with political parties.
While the major political parties are in a standoff over who should be the next President with an election for the head of the state scheduled for March 9, a press statement issued by former king Gyanendra Shah on the eve of the Democracy Day [Saturday] hints at a slight departure from his prior stance that political parties are solely responsible for the instability, leaders say. This time he has offered to collaborate with political parties.
Since his ouster in May 2008, the deposed King Shah has been regularly issuing press statements on important occasions. Meanwhile, some of his public activities were the talk of the town.
Shah’s earlier press statements would reprimand parties for misgovernance while expressing concerns over the country's deteriorating political and economic situation, and its poor image abroad.
In the latest press statement, however, instead of blaming political parties for the deteriorating condition of the country, he has offered to collaborate with the parties.
“It is the legacy and the tradition of our lineage to accept the decision of the majority of the people of Nepal. Even in the most adverse moments of the sad situation, we did not lose our composure and patriotism and we did not leave the country, but we can no longer remain silent about the continuing decline of Nepal,” the press statement from Shah stated.
“Over these years [since the abolition of monarchy], the country's long-term peace, stability and international respect and sovereignty have begun to crumble. Now, to save this country, there should be no delay in cooperation between political parties, which are indispensable for democracy, and a monarchy with a long patriotic historical heritage, based on mutual trust,” it added.
KP Sharma Oli, the leader of the CPN-UML, denounced Shah’s statement. Oli sarcastically said: “On what basis should the political parties cooperate with the former King?”
When journalists sought reaction from Oli, who arrived in Biratnagar on Sunday, on Shah’s message, he responded: "Former king Gynendra continues to act in the same manner as he did when he was in power. He gets excited after seeing a few people around him.”
Govind Raj Pokharel, a Nepali Congress leader and former vice-chair of the National Planning Commission, claimed that the press statement released by the former King Gyanendra differs from the ones he previously issued.
“The way the former King has raised the issue of good governance, the country's poor economic situation and the diplomatic sloppiness seen in the country, seem to be pragmatic,” Pokharel said. “However, what he means by ‘we can no longer remain quiet to the country’s backslide’ is something abstract.”
Pokharel further questioned, “By saying ‘we can no longer remain quiet’ did he mean he would make attempts to restore the monarchy or help solve the problems faced by the country and the people?”
Just like the Congress leader Pokharel, senior journalist Yubaraj Ghimire also found the former king's statement to be abstract. When it comes to the issues the nation and the problems its people are facing, former king Gyanendra has been raising concerns in his press statements over the last two to three years, Ghimire said.
“The statement recalls his leaving the crown and sceptre in the custody of the Nepali people as he left the palace,” Ghimire said. “India both formally and informally invited the former king to live in India after his abdication, but he declined the offer. His press statement consistently reminds us that he is living in Nepal.”
The former king's personal secretary, Phanindra Raj Pathak, however, denied that the press statement is an abstract piece. “The leaders of several political parties express their displeasure when they meet with us saying that the former king did not call the parties for a formal meeting,” Pathak said. He further added that the former king, this time, has called the political parties for cooperation based on mutual trust.
“If the political parties want a person of consensus as the head of state, then a former king could be a good candidate,” Pathak said. “Why can’t we create a post of head of state instead of president and give the position to the former king?”
As matters stand, the presidential institution itself is under controversy because when a leader of a political party gets elected as President, instead of being loyal to the country, they become more obliged to their former party. Therefore, the desire to elect a non-political person as President was also being expressed by the leaders of the major parties, until recently.
However, Congress leader Pokharel said that the former king cannot be made the head of state. “There is no possibility of bringing the former king to such a position under any name.”
“I read the statement of the former king and I am curious to know the intention,” journalist Ghimire said. “However, what I think is that when the political forces in Nepal are divided under different names, the foreign powers fancy their chances. That might be the reason for throwing up the possibility of a former monarch as an alternative.”
This is not the first time Shah has expressed dissatisfaction over the condition of the country and political party leaders have repeatedly raised questions about the king's public activities and political statements.
Head of the Foreign Department cell of the CPN-UML, Rajan Bhattarai, who is considered a close aide to party chair Oli, challenged the former king to launch a new party.
“The former king can set up his own political party and join politics instead of urging political parties for cooperation,” Bhattarai said.
The deputy general secretary of the Maoist Centre and the political advisor of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Haribol Gajurel, echoed Bhattarai.
“There is a rise of populism in the country, and the former king who has been living off state benefits is just trying to fish in troubled waters,” Gajurel told the Post.
Though the leaders of political parties criticise the former king, they are also often found slandering one another for having relations with the former monarch.
On December 20, 2020, while the NCP was in power, former Prime Minister Oli dissolved the previous Parliament for the first time. The party's two factions held street demonstrations to support and condemn the prime minister's action.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal-Madhav Nepal faction claimed that the then-NCP Oli faction had conspired with the former king after the Oli faction announced to demonstrate in front of the Narayanhiti Palace on February 5, 2021. Due to the dissatisfaction within the party, the then NCP got divided into three factions.
KP Sharma Oli had accused the Maoist Centre chair Dahal on December 15, 2021, of reaching a covert agreement with the former king.
After the monarchy was overthrown in 2008, Kamal Thapa's Rastriya Prajatantra Party initially pushed for its reinstatement, but it had no effect. Thapa has since renounced his support to the monarchy, claiming that the Shah interfered in the party’s general convention held at the end of 2021, to defeat him.
Notwithstanding Thapa's withdrawal from the debate over the monarchy's restoration, the Rastriya Prajatantra Party and its leader Rajendra Lingden have continued to advocate for the restoration of constitutional monarchy. Durga Prasain, a medical entrepreneur, has recently been added to the list of the former monarch’s supporters. The former king took part in a function titled ‘Save the Nation, Nationality, Religion, Culture and Civilization Campaign’ organised in Jhapa on February 13.
A similar kind of function is scheduled to be held in Dhangadhi on February 22, in Chitwan on February 25 and on March 4 in Kathmandu.
Although there has been a general public disenchantment towards the political parties in recent times due to their failure to deliver, occasional street demonstrations by the supporters of the former king will have no impact on the political system, experts say.
“The former king’s statements criticising the parties are insignificant because he failed to deliver when he was in power,” political analyst Lok Raj Baral said. “If he wants to join politics then he is free to do so by launching a political party. Otherwise, I do not see any reason for political parties to cooperate with him.”