Political developments - Reading the King’s mind

People who have met King Gyanendra think he is mysterious. Some say he is talkative but others portray him as being taciturn. But there is a unanimity of views that he is inscrutable. They admit that they could never read his mind. Even the political leaders who enjoy greater access and interaction with him concede their inability to understand him in his true colours. Political leaders like Nepali Congress president Girija Prasad Koirala, CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal and Nepal Workers and Peasants Party chief Narayan Man Bijukchhe have publicly admitted that they failed to understand him properly. That explains why and how the King has succeeded in scoring over the politicians in down-to-earth political games.

I may be too naïve in my assessment of the King but I have found him just the opposite and pretty consistent in his public views and postures. To agree or not to agree with him is entirely different. But so far as understanding him is concerned, I see no difficulty. Many a time, I have found him doing what I thought he would do given the delicate situation and the choices before him. Once you may call it accidental. Twice you might say coincidental. But when it happens several times, can’t I make a valid claim of understanding him perfectly well?

Before he dismissed the Sher Bahadur Deuba government and took over, for example, executive power on October 4, 2002, I had said (The Kathmandu Post, Sept. 30, 2002) he would do it and take Nepal 50 years back. No matter what the constitutional pundits were saying about the use of Article 127 of the Constitution at that time, I had made it clear that he would “exercise discretionary power” under that provision to dismiss and appoint prime ministers and ministers as his grandfather and father were doing in the 1950s. For over three years now, the King has been doing the same by rather reinforcing it with firmer actions.

Subsequently, I made a firm assertion (THT, July 7, 2003) that King Gyanendra was “no constitutional monarch. Those who think he is are fools.” By now it has been amply clear that the King does not subscribe to the principle of constitutional monarchy. If more evidence is required, then, we can just refer to Dr Tulsi Giri who has minced no words on this issue. He has declared that the people can choose between democracy and monarchy. It is sufficient to recollect that the King also abandoned the use of “constitutional monarchy” in his public speeches together with the oft-quoted multiparty democracy. There are, of course, too many evidences to prove the point. To add, he wanted to be not only “seen but also heard” by the people. He wanted to play the role of a “constructive monarch”. The royal takeover of February 1, 2005, was the climax of this aphorism.

As explained on July 15, 2003 (THT), to take yet another example, he made a choice of “following the Mahendrapath of revising active monarchy.” For that, I said, he “can come out with a new agenda of peace making and nation building. He can ask his people to keep quiet and follow him for, say, two years, five years or ten years. If his (then) communication minister, Kamal Thapa, can ask the people to do so for six months, the King can certainly do it for a longer period.” Just after one and a half years, the king asked for three years to restore peace and consolidate democracy.

Let us take a further case of the Sudarshan Chakra (a powerful weapon belonging to Lord Krishna) that the King has in the form of the army, the police and the state machinery. On August 18, 2003, I had stated, “If he wishes, he can go to a great length in making use of it.” That he actually did on Feb. 1. Did the King not do as I had contemplated in greater detail? “He can, for example,” I said, “round up, as King Mahendra did in 1960, all the prominent political leaders and put them behind bars. On the other hand, he can give the security forces marching orders to smash out the last fortress of the Maoist rebels. A reign of terror, massacre and bloodshed may result from the release of his Sudarshan Chakra.” Political observers of recent times stand witness to the royal actions accordingly.

King Gyanendra similarly acted as envisaged about two years ago (THT October 27, 2003) that he “can afford to ignore the rebels, the political parties and the foreign powers provided he could take care of the people, their security and their welfare.” The recent royal tours seem to be inspired by a similar motivation of going close to the people to rebuff the increasing pressure from all the three sets of adversaries.

“Take the present Constitution that is not going to solve the problem. It needs drastic amendment or replacement by a new one.” Are we not on the verge of observing yet another royal action in keeping with this suggestion made on May 3, 2003?

What wrong do I commit if I claim on this basis that I am one of the few people in Nepal who understands King Gyanendra well?

Shrestha is a freelance journalist