The royal takeover of February 1, 2005, whatever the intentions behind it, was well received by the common Nepali. They were glad that the recurrent strikes and Bandhs had ceased, if only for a while. Things started going awry when the king formed the Royal Commission for Corruption Control (RCCC), nominated discredited leaders of the Panchayat-era, and gave ministerial berth to some convicted criminals. Ignoring the already present Commission for the Investigation of the Abuse of Authority (CIAA), which the people trusted, and instituting RCCC irked the people. Whatever credibility was left was lost when the king held the so-called municipal polls without popular support. It was reminiscent of the elections held by Zia-ul-Haq’s regime in Pakistan.
People have short lived memories. The royal regime had definitely brought some stability. But they could not convince the public of it. One by one, several ridiculous and suppressive measures were introduced including ordinances to control the media, prohibitory measures against public gatherings, and the arrest of political activists. These actions were in sharp contradiction to what the King had promised during his February 1st promulgation. He had used the word “democracy” several times and had tried to assure the public that he had to step in to protect people’s right. The King never again came to the public to justify his subsequent actions, never clarified how those measures would promote “democracy” (which he seems to define rather differently than the rest of the people in the world understand the meaning of it).
It didn’t come as a surprise then when people started doubting and questioning each and every step the royal government was taking. Since he had inserted himself to an active executive role, it was necessary for him to come to the public and give explanations for each of the major initiatives introduced by his government. Caught in the whirlwind of media criticism against some of the nominees for ministerial posts, the King still did not come to defend his choices. The King wanted to be the country’s CEO, but acted like an inactive celebrity chairman. An active CEO always makes sure that the rank and file is happy and his plan is widely accepted. In the absence of any meaningful actions to support his claims of patriotism and love of the nation, his occasional speeches sounded hollow.
The only means the King used to promote his agenda was through government controlled media, which the people neither trust nor tune to. The mainstream media, like Kantipur, were exposing the truth and the royal regime had nothing to say about that. Had the King come to the forefront to defend his actions, all media, mainstream included, would have covered his messages and he would have brought himself closer to the public. Nothing like that ever happened and it was a public relation disaster for the King.
Following the anniversary of his active role, the King addressed the nation and people had wide expectations. Everyone wanted to listen to the King justify his actions. Nothing like that happened. The address was very superficial and it failed to reflect the seriousness of the situation. What was more, the King claimed victory! Nothing could be more insulting to the public who were facing unspeakable hardships amid atrocities committed by both the warring factions. Economic activities were on the downhill. They were hoping that the King would explain the difficult situation and apologize to them, assure them of his support and willingness to work to bring things back to normal and would recognize his government’s failure. When a leader speaks the truth and shows willingness to work together, there is tremendous power in that and the people support his/her initiatives whole heartedly. Truth has that power. The King lost the opportunity to bring people back on his side. Instead, they were dismayed and the gap between them and the King further widened.
What is next for Nepal? The King’s drama will continue for a while. He is going to wake up one morning and will be forced to correct himself or get sidelined. He has gambled to get the pre-1990 royal authority back. It has proven to be a wrong gamble. He has no choice but to change the current course of action. Once the King changes the course of action, the Seven Party Alliance will come back to power. Then another mess may start if SPA and the King do not work together to bring the Maoist to the negotiating table. I hope the King does not start another political game. If he does, the game may sweep the royals out of the Nepalese horizon.