Alone in the palace

Alone in the palace
by H.K. Dua

KING Gyanendra, who threw any lingering semblance of democracy overboard, is getting more isolated than he was when he took up the reins of the government earlier this month. India, Nepal’s most important neighbour, has strongly condemned the King’s coup. And now New Delhi has called back its Ambassador for what is described as consultations. The United States, the United Kingdom and other members of the European Union have all called back their ambassadors from Kathmandu, ostensibly for consultations, but clearly to convey to the monarch their anger and indignation at his grabbing absolute power in Nepal.

That India and Western powers have chosen to send a strong signal, showing disapproval of his assault on democracy, should worry the monarch. Even at home, he enjoys hardly much support from the people, political parties and opinion-makers. Also, the King’s coup has been called “a betrayal” by the Maoists, who during the last few months have demonstrated that they have the capability of keeping him confined to Kathmandu.

King Gyanendra is indeed a beleaguered ruler who does not really know how to come out of the mess he has allowed himself to get into. The circumstances in which he acceded to the throne after the palace killings in which his brother and the then King was assassinated have not earned him a measure of support of most people of Nepal who are otherwise deferential to the institution of monarchy.

The political parties could have been on the King’s side if he had chosen to function within the statute, which provides for only a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary form of government. The political parties, although badly divided, could have been a buffer between the palace and the Maoists, but by cracking down on them the King has removed this buffer, exposing himself to greater dangers from the Maoists, his main foe. He may admit it or not, his choosing to rely only on the Royal Nepal Army could hardly give him a feeling of assurance.

The calling back of ambassadors by India, the United States, Britain and other members of the European Union, just in a matter of three days, shows that New Delhi has been acting in concert with western powers.

India has reportedly suspended some of the military assistance to Nepal which it has been giving for some time to help the troubled country fight Maoist insurgency. Western countries, who also have been helping Nepal in some form or another to combat the Maoist threat, may do likewise to mount pressure on the King to swallow his regal pride and restore democracy. Whether this pressure influences the King to retrace his step and restore a modicum of democracy remains to be seen.

Not heeding the sound and well-meaning advice he has been getting from India and Western countries leaves him fewer options to tackle the situation. Perhaps, he doesn’t realise that the gainers of his opting for a repressive policy to sustain his fragile regime will be only Maoists — and certainly not the monarchy.