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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 February, 2005, 12:36 GMT
Nepal king's biggest gamble
By Rabindra Mishra
BBC Nepali service

King Gyanendra
King Gyanendra at his coronation after the royal massacre of 2001
By sacking Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's government for the second time in just over two years and taking full control of the state power, Nepal's King Gyanendra has taken an unprecedented risk.

He knows he will have to win a three-way power struggle involving the monarchy, a powerful Maoist rebel movement and Nepal's parliamentary parties.

If he loses, his throne itself could be in danger.

He has said he will form a new cabinet under his direct leadership.

But the Maoist rebels appear stronger by the day. No one knows whether the king will be able to deal with the civil war successfully where the politicians have failed.

Impossible task?

Many analysts had been saying that direct rule was probably the last option left to the king to deal with the crisis.

Maoists in Nepal
The Maoists have insisted on direct talks with the king

The alternative was the strong lobby in the country advocating for the restoration of the dissolved House of Parliament.

That would have meant a return to full democracy after the king sacked the elected government of Mr Deuba in October 2002.

Mr Deuba was appointed again in June last year after the king's pro-royalist nominees, Mr Lokendra Bahadur Chand and Mr Surya Bahadur Thapa, failed to make progress in resolving the Maoist crisis.

When Mr Deuba was reappointed, he was asked by the king to form a government by trying to get into fold as many political parties as possible, restore peace in the country and start the process of holding general elections by March this year.

Many predicted it was an impossible task.

No progress

He got off to a bad start when the largest political party in the dissolved parliament, the Nepali Congress, refused to co-operate. Some other smaller parties also cold-shouldered him.

If the king fails, there is a possibility that the political parties might establish some sort of working relationship with the Maoists and try to get rid of the king himself

However, an unlikely combination, the right-wing National Democratic Party and the centre-left Nepal Communist Party (United Marxist-Leninist) and another small party decided to join the government. They argued that this was the best way of limiting the king's political manipulations.

As it turned out, Mr Deuba made no progress in ending the fighting. The Maoists simply refused to negotiate with him, denouncing him as the king's puppet and insisting on direct talks with the king himself.

Mr Deuba responded by expressing his determination to hold general elections.

The idea of holding elections was mocked by all political parties because of the deteriorating security situation and the Maoist threat to disrupt any polls.

In theory, King Gyanendra should have been in favour of the elections as he had been insisting on them when he reappointed Mr Deuba as prime minister.

But Mr Deuba had been telling many journalists off the record that the king himself did not, in fact, want the elections to be held.

It is certainly true that if a date for elections had already been announced, it would have made it harder for the king to justify his decision to rule directly and impose a state of emergency.

Not a quiet king

Some in Nepal have always been suspicious of the king's democratic credentials.

He became the king in unexpected and dramatic circumstances after his brother and other members of his family were killed in a shoot-out at the royal palace in June 2001.

Political parties rally in Nepal against the king, April 2004
Political parties have campaigned for months for parliament to be restored

Immediately after his enthronement, he said he would not be a quiet king like his brother and would play a more active role in Nepali life.

His involvement in state affairs opened up the country's three way power struggle.

Many had been calling for a united front between the king and Nepal's political parties.

King Gyanendra never took up such an initiative and now looks to have decided to sideline the parties completely.

So his success now depends entirely on whether he will be able to bring the Maoist rebels back to the negotiating table and reach some sort of deal in restoring peace in the country.

It is a tall order, not least because the basic aims of the Maoists has long been the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of a communist republic.

However, if the king succeeds, he may gain some support. If he fails, there is a possibility that the political parties might establish some sort of working relationship with the Maoists and try to get rid of the king himself.

Whatever the future course, the state of Nepal has been plunged into further uncertainty.

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