NEW DELHI, May 20 (UPI) -- Following weeks of turmoil and rioting, the Nepalese king has given in to a number of demands from the street to introduce drastic changes in the country.
"The current developments in Nepal demonstrate that the tiny Himalayan country is heading towards a decisive political change that would lead it to the all-round development and a permanent stability," said A.B. Mahapatra, director of the Centre for Asian Strategic Studies, a New Delhi based think-tank.
Mahapatra said if the trend continues, the new government would undoubtedly consolidate its hold and retain its popularity among the people, who following a long struggle, are now able to decide their political future.
The House of Representatives of Nepal Thursday unanimously passed a proclamation declaring parliament the supreme and sovereign body of the country. The proclamation, proposed by Prime Minister G.P. Koirala, reduced the once-powerful monarchy to a ceremonial one, and wrested powers and privileges from King Gyanendra, making him a toothless tiger. The lower house of the re-instated parliament brought the Royal Nepalese Army under its control and renamed it the Nepali army.
Parliament also renamed the government: from His Majesty's government to the government of Nepal. The house stripped the king of the title of supreme commander of the army. The decree approved by the House includes a provision under which the federal cabinet will now appoint the chief of the army, not the king. Under the new system, the government will decide the security arrangements for the royal palace.
"A new national security council, to be constituted under the chairmanship of the prime minister, would decide the mobilization of the army. The decision would have to be ratified by the appropriate house committee within a month. The national anthem has been scrapped," said the proclamation.
The House of the People proclaimed that it would have the right to enact, amend or annul the laws relating to the heir to the throne. With the passage of the proclamation containing this particular clause, the position of King Gyanendra's son Paras as next in line for the throne hangs in the balance, for he is hated throughout the country.
The king was neither consulted nor informed of these changes as the proclamation was being drafted and passed, further confirmation that he has indeed been stripped of all his powers.
Since the army is no longer under the palace's control, Maoist rebels are now in a position to lay down their arms and join the political mainstream, ending their decade-long armed struggle against the throne which has killed 13,000 people. When this development takes place, it will forever change the face of Nepalese politics.
As they have already hinted, the Maoists will join the political mainstream after laying down arms and will also be a crucial ally to the Seven-Party Alliance, making the present government a true coalition that includes all major political parties and the Maoists.
India played a major role in turning the theocratic state into a multi-party democracy. New Delhi made consistent efforts to bring all anti-monarchy political parties together under a common platform. The Manmohan Singh government deputed Sitaram Yechuri, senior Indian Communist leader, who has close links with Nepal's Maoists and political parties, as its back-channel emissary. He successfully brought the SPA and the Maoists close to launching a final but powerful offensive to overthrow the monarchy.
Under the provision of the proclamation, the lower house will decide royal expenses and facilities, and the income of the royal family will be taxed. The House scrapped the Privy Council, which was full of pro-King deputies, saying it would be merged with the civil services. The decree also invited the Maoists to join the federal government.
"Parties inside and outside parliament can form a national government to address the challenges facing the country," it said.
"This is a declaration written by the blood of martyrs in the course of the movement for democracy," Koirala said in an emotional speech as he put forth the proclamation.
"Despite the great challenges ahead, an extraordinary hope is there among Nepali political class, which sees a better and secure future for the country," said Mahapatra.
The proclamation is expected boost the confidence of Nepali political leaders and those people who fought a hard battle to earn democracy.
It is important for the Indian foreign establishment to recognize the change in its immediate neighbor and treat Nepal as a full-fledged democracy, not a small and weak friend who survives on its support.
"Respect to the Nepali nation in all means should now be the key element of New Delhi's policy vis-à-vis Nepal," said Mahapatra.
The Nepali army, which has remained loyal to the king, has expressed dissatisfaction over some of the contents of the decree. Army chief Pyar Jung Thapa met with Koirala before the decree was launched, expressing his concern.
The army was unhappy over the stripping of the title of supreme commander title from the king and new provisions about the heir to the throne.
"We had received early assurance on these two," Thapa said.
But the government said the army top brass were taken into confidence before introducing the proclamation to the House of Representatives.