The last king of Nepal, Gyanendra Shah is in India to attend the Kumbh festival. He arrived in the holy city of Haridwar on Sunday to participate in the biggest Hindu festival.
King Gyanendra will visit other important temples in the holy city—which lies on the banks of river Ganga. During his visit he will take the holy dip and seek the blessings of the priests.
In one of his earlier visits to India, king Gyanendra and his family had met with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The king’s visit comes at a crucial time due to the political and social turmoil in Nepal.
Groups of people considered to be pro-royal and pro-monarchy have been holding protests for the return of the Hindu king. Pro-monarchy groups have been active since October and have carried out protests in nearly a dozen cities demanding the return of monarchy, restoration of a Hindu State and the end of federalism.
Despite regulatory instructions in view of coronavirus spread, people have carried out protests even in capital Kathmandu against what they see as a failure of democracy. Groups of youth have shown their displeasure by taking out motorcycle rallies in favour of monarchy. In many cities across Nepal, people have been chanting slogans of “bring the king, save the country”.
Taking note of the growing support for royalty, The Kathmandu Post sounded the mood of the nation against their leaders in an editorial, saying: “… The recent rallies, thus, should be taken as a manifestation of the general public’s frustration against the government of the day, and the endless bickering in the ruling party that has held the country hostage.”
The crisis in Nepal blew over last year after a rift in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. The NCP saw a running feud between Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, aka Prachanda, over issues of power and governance. Prachanda wanted Oli to resign as Prime Minister as he alleged that Oli was running the country in an authoritarian manner and had sidelined senior party members.
Oli, in turn, blamed Prachanda for not strengthening the party. Power play in the NCP led to a governance crisis where Oli was accused of corruption and mismanagement during the coronavirus crisis.
As factionalism in the ruling communist party grew, Oli dissolved the parliament in December and called for elections—furthering uncertainty in the Himalayan country. Unhappy with the events, people, particularly the youth, have been protesting against the government, moreso against the ruling party. Many are protesting over the mishandling of coronavirus and the way NCP had conducted itself despite a clear mandate.
The Kathmandu Post has also noted in its editorial that people are disenchanted with not just the ruling party but also the opposition parties.
Gyanendra had stepped down as king in 2008 after the Maoists mounted a sustained campaign to abolish monarchy and share power with political parties. Subsequently, with the involvement of the UN, a peace accord was signed, a new constitution made and monarchy was abolished.
Nepalese leaders are not new to the kumbh festival. President Bidhya Devi Bhandari too had visited the Simhastha Kumbh Mela in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, in 2016 while on her first official trip to India.