Free Press Journal

A King’s Coup

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Except for the manner in which King Mahendra dismissed the Koirala Govt, took the council of ministers into custody and dissolved Parliament, there is nothing really surprising in the latest developments in Nepal. From the King’s dealings with the successive govts (experiments in the delegation of authority) in the past it is quite clear he has never been too enamoured with the democratic system. As regards the 19-month old elected govt of Mr. B. P. Koirala, it is an open secret that the King and his PM never did hit it off too well together. In fact, the King has never concealed his resentment of the sweeping land reform measures which Mr. Koirala put into stride. This became manifest in October this year when a Hindu mystic, Narahari, reputed to be the “King’s man” led a revolt of Gurkhas in the Western districts. Though the Koirala Govt succeeded in quelling that particular revolt it never did achieve any measure of success in snuffing out the reactionary spirit behind it. The main opposition in the erstwhile Parliament, the Gurkha Parishad, has been nursing anti-land reform revolts in the countryside. Added to these uncertainties was the general discontent engendered by the propaganda conducted by the Premier’s own brother, Mr. M.P. Koirala. Although the King’s reference to “anti-national” activities in Nepal suggests an unholy truck between Mr. B. P. Koirala’s Govt and the Communist Party of Nepal, there is nothing to show that such a liaison did exist. Mr. B.P. Koirala’s recent expressions of friendliness towards Peking is not sufficient to suspect him of being a cat’s-paw of the Communist Party. All these add up to only one thing: the King has veered round to the view point of the Army and its Rana General staff. The only argument against this deduction is that the King himself was once an enemy of the Ranas-a fact which merely adds a layer of confusion to the King’s motives and puts him in a better light. From the manner in which the Army has swiftly filled the vacuum caused by the deposition of the Govt it is clear that old enmities have been forgotten and a new friendship forged. It is not suggested that the King’s allegations of corruption levelled against the Koirala Govt are entirely baseless: it was as corrupt as any govt in a nascent democracy would be. But there was never any doubt that it had its heart in the right place. The King has suggested that he would make “some alternative arrangement” at a later date. What that could be to an elected Govt with a convincing majority in parliament is something: which must remain obscure and conjectural.

17th December, 1960