It has been many months now since Our Man behind the drinks cabinet inside Kathmandu’s Narayanhity Royal Palace reported on the situation of Nepal’s sovereign lord, King Gyanendra. In part this appears to be because the pressures of being a royalist in republican Nepal have driven him to drink, with the unfortunate result that His Majesty’s drinks cabinet is now as empty as his official diary. However, nursing the king of all hangovers and sitting rather sheepishly inside the offices of the King’s press secretariat – itself empty for months – Our Man reports that the end is nigh for the Shah dynasty.
After opining a few months ago that the only hope for the monarchy was for the King and his son, Crown Prince Paras, to abdicate in favour of five-year-old Prince Hridayendra, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has now told the interim legislature that the monarchy is doomed and that the King would be asked to abdicate and take his entire family into exile before the constituent assembly elections, now planned for 22 November. Despite half of Nepal’s population still believing that the monarchy should be retained in at least a ceremonial capacity, the constituent assembly will almost certainly declare Nepal a republic.
Undaunted, His Majesty has decided to stick two fingers up at all his detractors and is planning a lavish 61st birthday celebration this coming weekend. Coming after rumours that the King recently had himself secretly crowned by the country’s top Hindu cleric, this latest twist in the plot of Nepal’s royal soap opera has enraged the republican establishment. No sooner had 2,000 invitations been issued in the name of Queen Komal to politicians, former royal ministers, diplomats and captains of industry for a birthday dinner tonight (Friday 6 July), than hordes of gun-toting yobs affiliated to the youth wings of various political parties within the ruling eight-party alliance announced that they would resort to any means available to thwart the birthday festivities. The royal palace has demanded extra security be laid on, and the government has apparently promised to protect the guests, although only time will tell if this promise is honoured.
The sumptuous gala dinner tonight will be followed later in the weekend by a tea hosted by the unpredictable Crown Prince Paras (is this wise?) and his charming wife Princess Himani (who almost fled the country with her son a few months ago). However, quite how many chairs will be filled at either do is uncertain after every single politician currently in the government as well as almost every ambassador declined to attend. Unfortunately, the British High Commissioner was among the first to reject the invitation, on behalf of every European Union diplomat stationed in Kathmandu. The American and Indian ambassadors have since followed suit.
After the national legislature recently voted to amend the interim constitution so as to give it the power to abolish the monarchy on a two-thirds vote, and steps were taken to prevent the King from selling any of his privately-owned property, the future really does appear bleak for His Majesty. The are, perhaps, two last hopes remaining. The first, ironically, is provided by the Maoist rebels, whose members continue to terrorise, kidnap, torture and kill anyone who stands in their way. It is rumoured that the Americans and Indians would prefer to see a powerless child-King Hridayendra on a ceremonial throne than a republic which would quickly become dominated by murderous Maoists. If the Maoists continue to resort to violence and appal public opinion, maybe there just might be a way out for the Crown – although not for King Gyanendra.
The second hope is the army, which is thought secretly to remain loyal to King Gyanendra. If anarchy breaks out after the King’s birthday bash, how will they respond?
Only time will tell if King Gyanendra, or his crown, can miraculously survive… but we’re afraid it doesn’t bode well that the royal drinks cabinet has yet to be re-filled.