One could be forgiven for presuming that His Majesty King Gyanendra, Sovereign Lord and Ruler of Nepal, has simply opted to stay in bed of late, no doubt dreaming of winning at online Poker. His days of felicitating are over, and the interim constitution signed last month between the Seven-Party Alliance Government and the Maoists will strip him even of his titular position of head of state when it is finally implemented.
What’s more, his cherished hopes of escaping the revolutionary hotbed of Kathmandu for a month’s rest and relaxation have been dashed. On the advice of his trusted – though evidently not wholly reliable – royal astrologers, His Majesty had planned to travel with his wife, Queen Komal, to his palace in Hetauda, 50 km south of the capital and a stronghold of support for the Crown. However, the Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, advised his sovereign that the trip could lead to clashes between the Monarch’s supporters and Maoist opponents and demanded that the holiday be cancelled.
Yet our man behind the royal drinks cabinet inside the Narayanhity Palace reports that His Majesty, far from feeling despondent at this abrupt change of plans, has in fact been putting his unexpected time in Kathmandu to good effect and has been rather busy in recent days. It appears that the King has stepped up his secret parleys with royalists to save his crown, taking full advantage of the delay in installing the interim constitution while the Maoists drag their feet on the issue of arms management. The secret meetings all happen under cover of darkness, and in recent days have brought three former royalist prime ministers and another minister scurrying into the Palace when most other residents of Kathmandu are tucked up in bed.
It also appears that the palace has sent emissaries to India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which wants Nepal to remain a Hindu state with the king as its head. The strategy behind all these secretive manoevures remains unclear, although it seems obvious that His Majesty is not intending to give up his crown without a fight.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Koirala has once again voiced his support for a ‘ceremonial monarchy’, and it seems increasingly possible that his Nepali Congress will go into the constituent assembly elections planned for June with a policy of retaining the King – albeit constitutionally emaciated.
However, before keen supporters of King Gyanendra (and there are many among the loyal ranks of the RCC) get too excited, worrying news has just broken. The King’s royal astrologers have confidently predicted that the monarchy will survive. Blast! The cause is now as good as lost.