Nepal’s ex-prince regaining his halo – by default

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Four years after his car was stoned by angry protesters and his royal legacy abolished by parliament, Nepal’s former crown prince Paras has begun to regain his halo, thanks to the mounting public anger against the unsuccessful political parties.

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Ahead of a fresh crisis with the Maoist party having called an indefinite general strike nationwide, Paras was given a hero’s welcome in southern Nepal Wednesday as he began a series of public appearances, the first since the abolition of monarchy in 2008.

The 39-year-old had chosen to go into self-imposed exile in Singapore, unable to forgive his father, deposed king Gyanendra, for surrendering power after a sweeping pro-democracy movement in 2006.

But four years later, with the parties’ failure to provide security, good governance and a new constitution in time, people are forgiving the former royal family’s faults with some even considering them the lesser evil.

Paras, who had in the past faced a public campaign to have him stripped of his prince title, was greeted with garlands and cheers in Birgunj town where he made a surprise appearance.

Scheduled to inaugurate an eye hospital and visit two temples, the former playboy prince was visibly delighted at the huge crowd that followed him with people crowding rooftops to catch a glimpse of him.

Many shouted pro-monarchy slogans, saying only the restoration of the crown could save Nepal from disaster.

Wearing a loose cotton shirt, a Nepali cap and dark glasses, the flamboyant former heir to Nepal’s throne sported a pony tail, beard and a beaming smile.

In an astounding first interaction with the public, he defended his family, which had ruled Nepal for nearly 250 years, saying his father gave up the crown for the sake of peace.

“If people desire it, monarchy can return,” Paras said. He also said the parties had failed to fulfil people’s yearning for peace.

Paras, who had in the past hit the headlines for running over a popular singer, firing in a fit of anger outside a discotheque and storming a police station, said he could return from Singapore if the people desired it.

About a month ago, the deposed king’s visit to districts outside the capital had also triggered large crowds with calls for the return of monarchy.

Royalists are calling for a referendum to decide if Nepal should revert to a kingdom and have warned they would not obey a constitution that is enforced without their demand being heeded.

It is now nearly impossible that the parties would be able to get a new constitution ready by May 28. Once the deadline expires, the country will be plunged into a crisis with the tenure of parliament and the government ending.

President’s rule and a state of emergency loom larger over the former Hindu kingdom, resurrecting the same situation that prevailed in 2005 when Gyanendra sought to capture power through a bloodless coup.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])