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Nepal king defends coup on Democracy Day

He defended his attempt to seize power with the help of the army two years ago saying it was done in accordance with people's wishes.

india Updated: Feb 19, 2007 11:49 IST

Two days after his motorcade was stoned by angry pilgrims, Nepal's King Gyanendra hit the headlines afresh on Monday by issuing a message to the nation, glorifying the role played by his grandfather and justifying his own coup two years ago, saying it was what people wanted.

Nepal celebrates February 19 as Democracy Day, commemorating the overthrow of the authoritarian Rana regime of hereditary prime ministers in a mass revolt in 1950.

Though the then King Tribhuvan, the present king's grandfather, had fled to India with the crown prince and his grandson and returned after the Rana regime was overthrown, King Gyanendra in his message Monday chose to portray his ancestor as the "architect of democracy in Nepal".

"Beloved countrymen, the 57th National Democracy Day reminds us of the joint struggle launched by the King (Tribhuvan) and the people, culminating in the successful restoration of the people's rights," the short message said.

King Gyanendra also defended his attempt to seize total power with the help of the army two years ago and rule for 15 months, saying it was done in accordance with people's aspirations.

"Nepal's glorious history is guided by the fact that monarchy has always abided by the aspirations of the Nepalese people, on whom sovereignty is vested," the royal message said.

"It is clear that the prevailing situation compelled us to take the February 1, 2005 step in accordance with the people's aspiration to reactivate the elected bodies by maintaining law and order."

The king blamed the inability of the then prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to hold elections in time and the subsequent governments, who too were unsuccessful due to the growing Maoist insurgency.

The king also justified holding elections last year though they were boycotted by over 90 percent parties.

"In order to consolidate multiparty democracy, elected representative bodies must be installed, taking into consideration, in a mature manner, the grievances, aspirations and sentiments of all the Nepalese to the satisfaction of all.'

While blaming the failure of the governments to hold elections, the king ignored the fact that the governments were nominated by him against mounting opposition.

He however, accepted the responsibility for the doings of his reign, saying, "We are also morally responsible for any success or failure during the 15 month effort."

The message created a stir.

Though it was customary of Nepal's kings to issue a message to the nation on Democracy Day, since the promulgation of a new constitution monarchy has been out on hold.

The king has been stripped of his last remaining executive post as ceremonial head of state with the position being given to the prime minister.

The king, who seized power on February 1, 2005, had used the occasion of Democracy Day that year as well as last year to defend his coup.

The messages were delivered at a time of national turmoil, when telephone lines were disconnected and opposition leaders imprisoned to gag protests.

Monday's message created a fresh controversy with Nepal's political parties calling it unnecessary and politically incorrect.

Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, whose Nepali Congress party is seen as supporting a ceremonial monarch, told the media he was taken aback by the message.

The king's direct rule triggered public anger and continuous street protests that forced him to step down as head of government last April.

Since then, Nepal's new government has begun preparations to hold elections by mid-June when for the first time in Nepal's history, its 238-year-old monarchy would be put to vote.

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