Only option

The three-day 10th general convention of the Nepal Students Union (NSU), a student wing of the Nepali Congress, got underway in Pokhara yesterday. The theme of the convention displays its serious political agenda: “Decisive students’ movement to end autocracy and violence, restoration of full democracy and educational advancement.” Particularly important will be its new line on monarchy versus republic. This debate is raging not only in the NSU, but in all the political parties and their sister organisations as well as among the public. This shifting public opinion appears mainly to be the result of three years of active monarchy practised under Article 127 of the Constitution. Before that, a clear majority took constitutional monarchy for granted, and as a symbol of continuity and national unity. But time has moved on.

Nonetheless, a harmless, people-oriented monarchy exercising moral rather than executive authority should not by itself be regarded as a stumbling block. The monarchy has led unified Nepal for nearly two and a half centuries, keeping intact this small land-locked nation, delicately and strategically positioned between the two Asian giants. This geopolitcal reality and Nepal’s multiracial, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual composition make it difficult for the Nepalis to dismiss the usefulness of the monarchy. Certainly, the void to be created by any hypothetical exit of the monarchy will be filled, but how nobody can tell. It could well open the Pandora’s box.

But whether the monarchy has any future in Nepal will depend largely on the monarchy itself—on how it chooses to conduct itself. If it wins the people’s hearts, its longevity will be ensured. If not, the people might well choose to go republican. But, sadly, these three years hardly give grounds to believe that the monarchy, trying to exercise executive powers, is likely to win the people’s affections. In the 21st century, one thing, however, is obvious: the Nepali people are not going to accept active monarchy, under whatever guise. At a time of growing pro-republican sentiment in the country, peace does not appear possible without the monarchy accepting a genuinely constitutional role. This acceptance is the only option that could save the monarchy, too.