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Government inaction fueling economic crisis and social discord

Government inaction fueling economic crisis and social discord

On Sept 24, former King Gyanendra Shah visited Taleju Bhawani Temple in Bhaktapur, where he was received by a large crowd. The gathering surpassed his previous visits when he was still the monarch, elevating the spirits of royalist forces.

The temple area falls within the territory of the Nepal Majdoor Kishan Party, an orthodox communist group known for its soft spot for monarchy. Amid enthusiastic cheers for the former king, his supporters fervently chanted slogans demanding the reinstatement of the monarchy. Leaders of the pro-monarchy Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) hailed this assembly as a testament to the growing support and calls for the restoration of monarchy and Hindu state, abolished by the Constituent Assembly in 2008.

Rabindra Mishra, senior Vice-chairperson of RPP, emphasized the political significance of the massive gathering in Bhaktapur through his X (formerly Twitter) post. Mishra, a former journalist, has evolved into a staunch advocate for the reinstatement of monarchy. 

And as economic hardships have fueled frustration among the populace, royalist forces are harnessing this resentment to push their political agenda. They argue that the removal of the monarchy worsened the country’s political and economic situation, making its revival a potential remedy. However, a counterargument questions whether the monarchy, even during its reign, could have addressed these issues effectively, given that over 15 years have passed since its removal.

King Gyanendra, despite his peaceful demeanor after losing the crown, has recently become more active and expressed interest in returning to power. He provides monetary support to royalist parties but maintains distance from direct political involvement.

RPP is the leading advocate for reversing the current political trajectory. Led by Rajendra Lingden, the party secured 14 seats in the national parliament in the last year's election, and has been pushing for pro-monarchy and pro-Hindu agendas 

The party plans to organize protests against federalism, republicanism, and secularism after the Dashain and Tihar festivals.The RPP’s supposed call to arms aligns with mounting criticism of federalism, particularly within the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML. 

While some view the large gatherings at the former king’s public appearances as a sign of support for monarchy, others, like Professor Lokraj Baral, caution against equating it with a desire for monarchy’s return. He argues that people are indeed frustrated with the government, but this doesn’t necessarily translate into support for monarchy.

Baral’s reassuring observation hardly offers any consolation amid the extremely divided political landscape, poor governance, and economic crisis. Security agencies, including the Nepal Army, view identity-based federalism as a security threat. They reckon cases of communal violence, particularly in the Tarai region, are on the rise due to identity politics.

There are still risks of communal tensions in eastern Nepal, mainly in Dharan. Repeated clashes between two communities have also been reported in Malangawa, the district headquarter of Sarlahi. 

While the government and major political parties busy themselves in securing their interests, various religious outfits and anti-federal elements are stoking religious and communal discords.

Recently, teachers and doctors across the country are also in protest with their own sets of grievances and demands. Last week, teachers from across the country gathered in Kathmandu protesting the Education Bill registered in Parliament. While the government has reached a tentative agreement with the agitating teachers, a section of teachers are still protesting.

Doctors and medical professionals are also up in arms against an alarming surge in the incidents of assault on their colleagues. The victims of loan sharks and fraudulent financial institutions are also in protest. All these developments show that the state and its apparatuses are not on top of things. Amid all these pressing concerns, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal and a number of his ministers are in foreign trips. 

As concerns over the government’s inaction on various economic, social, and political issues mount, public protests are only but expected, says Baral. But he reiterates that the current crises in no way can bring back monarchy.  Observers warn as economic condition worsens and social fabric frays, there is a risk of rogue elements exploiting the public frustration. The RPP seems to be doing the same thing. Same goes for businessperson Durga Prasai who has  threatened to bring thousands of people out in the street after the Dashain festival.