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Why has the RPP announced street protests?

Why has the RPP announced street protests?

The Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which has 14 seats in the federal parliament, is planning to organize a series of street protests from February. However, the royalist party, advocating for the restoration of the monarchy and Hindu state, has yet to clarify whether this is going to be their decisive movement for what they call correcting the course of Nepali politics.   

Ever since the country abolished the centuries-old monarchy in 2008 and decided to adopt a federal republic set-up, the RPP has been batting for the return of the king, reinstatement of Hindu state and dissolution of federalism. RPP Chairman Rajendra Lingden told a group of editors on Tuesday that the current crop of leaders, who has been in the driving seat of the government for the past three decades, have completely failed.

He said the party’s protest plans for “course correction” means adopting a new system of directly elected prime minister, ceremonial monarchy and scrapping the federal structure. Lingden also proposed granting more power to the local level as well as slashing down the number of elected representatives both at the center and the local level. 

The RPP does not have a strong presence in parliament, nor does it have enough public support to push their cause. The party’s position in national politics has been middling at best; it hasn’t garnered more than 25 parliamentary seats after the restoration of democracy in 1990. 

The party is aware of this reality. Political observers say RPP has announced its protest plans to create a favorable public opinion of the party at a time when the vast majority of the people are frustrated with the major political actors—Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center). 

“Public frustration is boiling up as the country’s economy is in doldrums. Capital flight is increasing, there are no jobs and corruption is entrenched. To resolve all these issues we need to forge a new political agreement,” said Lingden.  

But major political forces are unlikely to make any compromise with the RPP, unless the party manages to mount a massive street protest. While the general public may have deep grievances and anger towards the big parties, political observers say the people will agree with the RPP’s agenda of dismantling the current system brought by the constitution of 2015. 

Lingden does not agree with this narrative. He said that his party is not trying to take the nation backward. “We are championing a democracy with monarchy. We want to limit the role of monarchy to that of a guardian,” he said. “There are several examples of monarchy existing even in advanced democracies.”

Lingden is of the view that the country cannot wait until the next general elections of 2084 BS (2027) to bring changes. “Economic crisis, corruption and bad-governance are bringing the country to its knees, but the major parties and their leaders have not realized this,” he added.

The RPP, however, has not clarified how the party’s “new political agreement” is going to address the problems facing the country. His proposition is that the same set of parties should continue ruling over the country, with a monarch serving as the head of the state instead of president.  

Only royalist supporters are likely to be buoyed by the RPP’s proposition. The moderate mass gathered by businessmen turned political activist, Durga Prasai, in Kathmandu a few months ago has certainly struck a chord among many monarchy sympathizers. And it won’t be far-fetched to say that the RPP is confident that it will succeed in drawing the same—if not more—number of supporters.  

This is not to say that major parties won’t be feeling anxious. They are aware of the public anger and frustration against them. No wonder, both ruling and opposition parties share a similar view whenever forces like the RPP or a one man-driven initiative like that of Prasai challenge the system.

Top leaders of major parties claim that there is an “invisible force” backing the royalist parties to reverse the current political system. Lingden laughs off such a claim. “We are for the political system backed by the people, without any external interference,” he said.  

What Lingden cannot deny is the fact that the royalist supporters are extremely divided into various camps. Over the past three decades, the party has undergone multiple splits. Currently there are two sets of Rastriya Prajatantra Party: Lingden’s RPP and the Kamal Thapa-led Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal (RPPN). The two camps held separate programs to celebrate the birth anniversary of King Prithvi Narayan Shah on 12 January. Even the last monarch, Gyanendra Shah, seems to have his own preference, given his frosty relationship with Thapa and closeness with Lingden.