Friday, May 19, 2006

King Gyanendra The Commoner

With the Nepalese Army now firmly under the command and control of the Government of Nepal, King Gyanendra can safely put away his uniform and pursue his pre-enthronement business, environmental and literary interests.
The last thing palace advisers should be thinking about is challenging in the Supreme Court the People’s Proclamation unanimously approved by the reinstated House of Representatives.
Constitutionality stands no chance against politics during these fluid times. Moreover, the next couple of weeks are going to be busy. As Maoist Chairman Prachanda prepares for his summit with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, the royal family, under the new legislative provisions, can expect to have their day in court.
Litigation is likely on everything from the accumulation of noses and earlobes during the War of National Unification of the 1700s to the abuse of countless quintets of buffaloes, sheep, goats, ducks and chickens slaughtered by the monarch in the name of Hinduism’s sweet lords and lordesses.
This embarrassing emasculation of the monarchy should not obscure the bright side of things. Since the royals’ property will now be taxed, King Gyanendra might want to consider that 30 percent voluntary disclosure scheme introduced by Ram Sharan Mahat during his last stint as finance minister and settle property matters once and for all.
The next thing the monarch should do is request the House of Representatives is to begin working out a schedule for his coronation. Since MPs will have to begin by voting on the fee structure for the panel of astrologers tasked with determining the most propitious planetary alignments, advance planning is highly desirable. That would leave sufficient time for the legislators to determine who should get the contract to clean up Hanuman Dhoka’s Nasal Chowk. This might seem tantamount to jumping the gun, especially with the constituent assembly expected to determine the fate of the monarchy still up in the air. Consider the other side of the argument. Depending on who’s doing the calculation, the monarchy will be around for another year to 18 months. Four years on the throne, all but four months as an active monarch, has brought King Gyanendra much denigration and denunciation. If he is to be castigated as the symbol of the institution that emaciated Nepal, the least he deserves is a formal coronation. At a minimum, the pomp and circumstance must befit a ceremonial king.
Crown Prince Paras should quit worrying about his public persona. If the constituent assembly decides to stick with the monarchy, parliament will decide what role Prince Paras should assume when the time comes. There will be plenty of political convulsions to contend with before the next cataclysm strikes, according to trend analysis, in 2018
The secularization of the Nepalese state might not be a bad thing, either. The whole idea of a Hindu kingdom cozying up with godless Chicoms and rabidly religious Pakislamists was incongruent. A Hindu ceremonial monarch of a secular state would be free to expand all kinds of ties with all kinds of royals beyond the seven seas. Prince Hridayendra won’t have to worry about his right to the throne every time a non-Hindu happens to catch his fancy.
The greatest possibility the People’s Proclamation opens up for King Gyanendra the Commoner lies in promoting the agenda he failed to advance as executive monarch. Ironically, the most antiquated institution of Nepalese society became the most vigorous advocate of World Trade Organization-led globalization. There is still time to build a lasting legacy.
Soaltee Group can start competing with the Chaudharis, Khetans, Vaidyas and Jyotis in patronizing parties and politicians most favorably inclined to free-market economics. Better still, the royals can build their own party that could pursue the twin goals of environmentally sustainable tourism and developing Nepal as a transit hub between the India and China that would offset the boisterousness and bitterness of its political arena.
India is still dominated by ex-royals and the Chinese are no doubt annoyed by perceptions that they are sponsoring the Nepalese Maoists rebels. There must be some temptation in Beijing to get even by instigating a secessionist movement in the Terai.
With Hindu nationalists fortifying the flank in India, China won’t face the embarrassment of supporting an executive monarch shunned by the rest of the whole world. Promoting fraternal ties with a palace-built party could be a safe bet both strategically and commercially for Beijing.
With the Nepali Congress, UML and the Maoists expected to be tied up in governance, King Gyanendra might even feel comfortable mingling with the Darbar Marg crowd without the encumbrance of royal guards far sooner than anyone of us expected.