The three-day celebration of King Gyanendra’s birthday that concluded yesterday was hardly a smooth affair. It was not unnatural for the palace to want to celebrate the diamond jubilee, even though the King has no constitutional status or authority. Everybody has a right to celebrate his or her birthday, so the King’s right to observe his birthday is beyond dispute. If the three-day gala had been made a private and quiet affair within the palace, it would hardly have given any provocation to the political parties. It was less the dinners and teas the palace hosted than the attempt to turn the occasion into a public event in some sort of a ‘show of strength’ that riled the political parties. The programme included a procession of royalists to the palace and presentation of a letter of felicitation to the King. The contents of the scroll went against the spirit of Jana Andolan-2 and the Interim Constitution and seemed to support the King’s controversial Democracy Day message.
Both the circumstances and timing helped bring both event and intention into sharp focus. At a time when the eight parties and the general public hold deep doubts about royal attitude towards the constituent assembly (CA) elections, the manner of celebration was ill advised. Obviously, the wide perception, including that of the political parties that the palace was engaged or likely to be engaged in conspiracy against the CA polls, led to the incorporation into the Interim Constitution an amendment that empowers the Interim Legislature-Parliament to abolish the monarchy even before the polls if the palace were deemed to be involved in any ‘serious’ conspiracy against the CA elections. The diamond jubilee controversy may strengthen the contention of those who want a republic right away.
It is too late for anybody, even the palace, now to try to reverse the political course the country has taken. While every move of the palace is under public glare, it would only prove to be counterproductive for the monarchy if it were seen to be going against popular will. The best thing would be to be resigned to the upcoming verdict of the CA. The birthday celebration also brought one thing to the fore — the government, the political parties, and the diplomats based in the capital stayed away from the functions at the palace, declining invitations. In yet another significant move, the King has been relieved of his age-old cultural role of gracing the bhoto at Bhotojatra. These speak volumes. The royalists could not take out the procession amid protests, and they had to enter the palace gate individually. Low turnout marked both the functions and the parties at the palace. Sadly, clashes erupted between YCL activists and royalists at some places, and several of the royalists were beaten up. It was an overreaction on the YCL’s part and it was wrong. Physical violence must be checked. But the mindset that betrays great difficulty in accepting the changed situation and the people’s verdict poses a greater danger to the political and peace process that has been set in motion.