Monday, October 02, 2006

Mass Resonance Of Royal Message

King Gyanendra’s Vijaya Dashami message to the nation was bound to generate a gush of analyses – and it certainly has precipitated a copious flow. Despite the “political marginalization” of the palace in the months since the April Uprising, far too many minds were focused on the political content the royal message might contain.
The monarch’s emphasis on encouraging the peace process, which he described as the nation’s urgent need of the hour, has prompted derision from predictable quarters – most notably from sections of our narcissistic civil society. Their interpretation is that a king humbled by the masses is merely trying to send overtures to both the Seven Party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists.
What they are utterly incapable of acknowledging is that King Gyanendra, having seen his roadmap derailed for a variety of reasons – some more obscure than others -- has thrown his weight behind the alternative. (An exhortation to the SPA and the Maoists to show Nepalis that last November’s 12-point accord was anything more than a tool to re-establish the southern neighbor’s grip on their country?)
SPA leaders, chastened by the compulsions of governing, have made a political point by not attending (boycotting?) the traditional Dasain tika ceremony at the palace. Ceremonial monarchists led by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala are being politically prudent ahead of the constituent assembly polls -- more out of self-interest than anything else. Despite all the hype over the civilian government’s tightening grip over the military, the SPA remains unsure of whether the palace has been tamed enough to remain a convenience, an anxiety the ripples of the coup in Thailand have reinforced.
Republicans in the SPA ranks were always grudging in their Dasain attendance in the past. Don’t be surprised when these sections do return once they factor the palace into their formulations. (It took Madan Bhandary, Nepal’s last revolutionary, two years to acknowledge King Birendra’s palace as a political center. Maoist supremo Prachanda did so by seeking to strike a deal with King Gyanendra’s government in 2003 against the back of the political parties.)
Interestingly, the international media have carefully calibrated their coverage of the royal tika with the premise of their coverage of the April Uprising. The “hundreds” who converged on the abode of an embattled monarch offer a multiple that may be factually correct but contextually imprecise.
What impelled these people seek royal blessings? The prospect of being branded regressive conspirators evidently failed as a deterrent. Were the attendees least bothered by the spectre of dire appellations because of their detachment from the SPA-Maoist loop?
Could these “other Nepalis, orange-clad sadhus and the odd tourist” – to borrow the description of Agence France Presse – be so out of tune with the country? Or were they representatives of a constituency that remained silent during the April Uprising but didn’t lose sight of the traditional pivot that has always sustained Nepal?
This section of Nepalis has observed with the greatest apprehension how obsequiously the SPA, having eviscerated the monarchy, has begun repaying its debts to its Indian patrons. The citizenship bill – consisting of many of the provisions the Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional after the constituents of today’s SPA foisted it on King Birendra – has revived fears of a massive demographic shift to the advantage of Indian interests.
The SPA government is on the verge of signing an extradition treaty of with India that would virtually assure New Delhi the final word on the innocence or guilt of third-country nationals in Nepal.
Nepalis are evenly divided on whether to keep the monarchy? Try conducting another poll today.