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PM's daughter distances from crown

On the third anniversary of King Gyanendra's disastrous coup, the PM's daughter Sujata Koirala said her earlier support for a cultural king was a "thing of the past".

world Updated: Feb 01, 2008 16:06 IST
Sudeshna Sarkar
Sudeshna Sarkar

On the third anniversary of King Gyanendra's disastrous coup that triggered an anti-monarchy wave, minister and prime minister's daughter Sujata Koirala on Friday distanced herself from the crown, saying her earlier support for a cultural king was a "thing of the past".

Sujata, a rising power in her father Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress party, who was last month appointed as a minister without portfolio, said in her "personal opinion", Nepal, hemmed in between its two giant neighbours China and India, had needed its king as a symbol of its cultural heritage to keep its identity intact.

"But I have no love or fascination with King Gyanendra," said the 54-year-old, who recently stoked a controversy by advocating the return of the old constitution that was discarded last year for a new one.

"He proved to be the most unpopular king of Nepal due to his absolute rule."

Sujata said that in her personal view, though the current king fell out of public failure people still retained a soft corner for the two-century-old institution of monarchy, which is why her father had in the past advocated a "baby king" - that is, installing Gyanendra's grandson Prince Hridayendra.

"Parliament would have been the regent with the minor as a symbolic king," she said.

"However, now that the seven parties have decided on a republic and since I am a member of my party, I am following their line."

The prime minister's daughter said she and her party supported the holding of the constituent assembly election in April, where people would give their mandate.

"At present, Nepal is simply riding a hot air balloon called the republic," she said. "Where is it? The ruling parties are yet to hold a serious discussion on what will happen if the election decides Nepal will become a republic."

"Where will the king go? Will he continue to stay in Nepal as a commoner? These issues should be addressed before the election but no one is listening," she added.

Sujata, who was censured by a parliamentary committee for expressing her personal views about the monarchy, said she was flayed because she was the prime minister's daughter.

"On the other hand, Maoist supremo Prachanda has also talked about forging an alliance with patriotic royalists," she said. "Who are these people? But no one is criticising him."

The first daughter, who had last year predicted that the crucial election would not be held due to the deteriorating security situation, said Nepal's leaders should keep alternatives ready if things did not go as per schedule.

"When the parties signed an agreement with the Maoists, it was decided that parliament would be restored and the constitution of 1990 would be revived," she said.

"But the Maoists forced the parties to adopt a new interim constitution and then compelled the parties to amend it thrice. We agreed because we wanted a safe landing for them and an end to the insurgency.

"But if the election is postponed again, the country can't stay in a vacuum. We should in that case revive the 1990 constitution," she said.

The 1990 statute provides for a constitutional monarchy.

On Wednesday, King Gyanendra broke a yearlong silence to speak to a Nepali weekly, where he hinted at an understanding between him and the parties in 2006, which resulted in him stepping down as the head of government.

With Sujata's clarifications, it now seems likely that the Maoists too had agreed to a constitutional monarchy but changed their tune after they came to power.