Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Reading between the lines of Gyanendra Shah’s message

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Former King Gyanendra Shah’s message, delivered on the eve of 73rd National Democracy Day, has surprised many political leaders who are busy lobbying for the third president of the FDR Nepal. In a country where it is a norm for political leaders to occupy apex positions for multiple times, it is no wonder that the former King, who already has ascended to the throne twice, is aspiring for a third time comeback. Besides flagging inner desires of the king who was unceremoniously removed in 2008, the message needs to be read from content and contextual perspectives.

Content level

At the content level, there are a couple of interesting points. First, the recent message is similar to the message Shah gave to a foreign newspaper immediately after his takeover in February 2005 when he claimed Nepal’s monarchy cannot stay mute (tulu tulu herera nabasne) and expressed it “to be seen and heard”. This time he has warned that he cannot “remain silent amid Nepal’s continuous downfall”. If Shah has been wise enough, he should have realized by now that it is his very desire for an active monarchy that has pushed Nepali people to trash more than two-century old monarchy into the dustbin of history.

Unlike 1 February takeover speech, where he became too critical of the multiparty politicians and the Maoists, this time, ironically, he has called for mutual cooperation between the political parties and the monarchy. Interestingly, in the same message he has squarely blamed political parties for Nepal’s destitution in terms of bad governance, corruption, economic stagnation and social discords. He has reasoned partisan, family and individual interests of the politicians overriding the interests of the country and the people.

Second, he has sought to cash in on demographic dividends, namely the growing youthful population. The recent elections have shown that many of the first time voters, who have no experience with Nepal’s repressive monarchy and who love to romanticize with royal traditions, have voted for new political outfits. This seems to have buoyed Shah. He has sought to hit the chords of youths by referring to lack of opportunities inside the country, youth migration, growing Nepali diaspora and dependence on remittance economy.

Deposed king should have known that his situation would have been worse if he had left the country and decided to settle somewhere else. There are no safe havens in the contemporary world.

Third, and probably, the worst self-aggrandizement comes when he says, “we did not lose patience and patriotism and leave the country even at the time of extreme tragic situation”. Deposed king should have known that his situation would have been worse if he had left the country and decided to settle somewhere else. There are no safe havens in the contemporary world. At least, some lessons can be learned from junior Marcos in the Philippines.

Contextual level

I suppose, context is important than the contents of the message. The message has been issued after chairing a protest programme launched on 13 February in Jhapa, courtesy Durga Prasain. When the Maoist Government is celebrating the day as “people’s war day”, a bunch of royalists were marking it as “a black day” in Jhapa.

The message is also issued at a time when political parties are in disarray over nominating the third president of FDR Nepal. In the political rumour market, Shah too is being named as a possible candidate for the post.

Political reactions

His onetime protégé Kamal Thapa has appreciated Shah’s belated call for cooperation between political parties and monarchy that is expected to produce much needed synergy. Thapa reacted to the message by saying, “The ball is in king’s court”. Far more negative reactions come from KP Sharma Oli, CPN-UML Chairman. He has reacted by saying that the former king is in a confused state and posed a counter question over Shah’s negative remarks on country’s politics and politicians: What did they do to the country during 204 years of rule? Dev Gurung, the Maoist leader, has questioned the agenda for cooperation between monarchy and political parties.

I suppose the message was a totally miscalculated move by the former king. At a time when maintaining silence would have given him an edge, he has brought more damage to himself by offering an unsolicited and unexpected advice. Who knows his very statement could be a factor behind possible unity among forever quibbling political parties? BTW, public has taken lightly the rowdy behaviour demonstrated by the crown prince on that day in Jhapa.    

Published on 20 February 2023

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