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Former royals test Nepal’s fluid political waters

world Updated: Aug 04, 2010 15:30 IST
Utpal Parashar

Having been reduced to ordinary citizens two years ago after a 240-year reign, Nepal’s former royals are slowly testing the country’s fluid political waters.

In a development that could have far-reaching implications, Raj Bahadur Singh, son-in-law of Nepal’s last king Gyanendra Shah, has joined Nepali Janata Dal, a small political outfit with links to Maoists.

Singh, 34, who is married to Gyanendra’s daughter Prerana, joined the party a few days ago, a highly placed source in NJD told HT. Efforts to contact Singh to get his version failed.

The move follows reports of Singh trying to buy support of lawmakers from smaller parties to ensure a win for Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ ahead of the third round of voting to elect Nepal’s next PM on August 2.

Founded 15 years ago, NJD is a Madhes-based party that has two members in the 601-member Nepal Constituent Assembly and has been a close ally of UCPN-Maoist, the largest party in CA.

“Singh came to our party head office in Kathmandu a few days ago and officially became member along with few of his supporters,” said a senior NJD office bearer on condition of anonymity.

There has been no official declaration of the development as yet and NJD is expected to hold a media briefing within few days to announce it.

A video showing Singh signing a membership receipt of the party is in possession of HT.

The development has led to rumours in political circles that Singh has taken permission from the former king for his move and it might be the first step the ex-royals are taking into parliamentary democracy.

It has also led some to speculate of the rumored link between the Shah dynasty and Maoists and that they may be using NJD as a link to play a bigger role in Nepal politics in the days to come.

In recent weeks, Gyanendra and former crown-prince Paras have been making public appearances across Nepal, interacting with the public and commenting on the country’s political issues.

Despite a peace accord signed in 2006 after a 10 year civil war, Nepal is going through a political crisis at present due to differences between political parties that has left the peace and constitution drafting processes in disarray.

In order to break the deadlock, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned in June. But the parties have failed to reach a consensus and election of the new PM has not yielded any result even after three rounds of voting.