Officially Nepal abolished monarchy in May 2008. But the Shah dynasty that ruled Nepal for 240 years still rules the hearts of many in this Himalayan nation.
Photos of late King Birendra and his wife Aishwarya can be found hanging from the walls of schools, colleges, public offices and in many Nepali houses and business establishments.
The present political instability in Nepal that threatens the peace and constitution-drafting processes and portends the likelihood of another civil war or emergency makes some Nepalese wish for the return of monarchy. It is precisely this sentiment which former king Gyanendra Shah is trying to use to his advantage. His latest statement seeking a people’s vote on whether or not monarchy should return is a part of that move.
The remark has evoked widespread criticism from parties across the spectrum, but the man on the street doesn’t seem averse to the idea of a constitutional monarchy — somewhat on the lines of England or neighbouring Bhutan.
Last month’s shutdown of Kathmandu Valley by a faction of the Rashtriya Prajatantra Party — the only party seeking a return to monarchial rule — demanding a referendum on secularism, monarchy and federalism managed to throw normal life out of gear.
Such developments and the growing fear that the country could plunge into more turbulent times makes Gyanendra’s statements on the likelihood of monarchy returning to Nepal assume significance.
Not surprisingly the political parties are worried. But although it might now seem farfetched, the ground situation is so fluid that the people are willing to digest even such an eventuality.
Whether the monarchy will return or not, only time will tell.