Nepal to king: Move over for diaper monarch

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By J. HEMANTH in Kathmandu
  • Published 17.06.07
Hridayendra (top), Purnika

Kathmandu, June 17: Nepal will get a chance to enthrone the youngest monarch in the world, if King Gyanendra agrees to a succession plan offered to save the monarchy.

The compromise plan, floated by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, requires Gyanendra to take three strides: abdicate, keep his son out and anoint his grandchild.

If such a plan is enforced, Crown Prince Paras’ son Hridayendra — all of five years old — stands a good chance of ascending the throne. However, under a new law, Hridayendra’s older sister Purnika is technically the first in the line of succession.

Irrespective of whether the prince or the princess — she is seven — takes over, the chosen one could still be the youngest monarch in the world. That adjective is now held by the 14-year-old Oyo Nyimba Kabamba-Iguru of the Ugandan Kingdom of Toro. Closer home, Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck of Bhutan — the ceremonial coronation is next year — is 27.

The clearest signal yet that the Nepal government is tightening the screws on Gyanendra came today when Prime Minister Koirala said the monarchy could be allowed to continue only if the father and son gave up the throne before the constituent assembly elections in November.

“The monarchy can continue only if the king and his son step down voluntarily before the elections,” Koirala said, adding that Gyanendra had been sounded.

The Prime Minister warned that if the king failed to comply, the assembly would abolish the monarchy. “Nobody can save the institution once the constituent assembly is constituted,” he said.

In private, the Prime Minister is known to have suggested that Hridayendra could enjoy all the privileges of a constitutional monarch while his unpopular father and grandfather withdrew from public glare.

The beleaguered monarch is believed to be in favour of this arrangement, which, in effect, allows him to retain all privileges and the vast property belonging to the palace.

Purnika has a stronger legal claim to the throne than her kid brother. Scrapping a 238-year-old tradition that favoured sons, the government had decreed that the first-born, irrespective of gender, should be crowned.

Purnika and her siblings — Hridayendra and four-year-old Kritika — now study in an international school run by an Indian-origin woman.