Upset in pro-Hindu and pro-monarchy party as underdog registers a win

Kamal Thapa, a longtime pro-Hindu and pro-monarchy politician, woke up on Sunday to the shock of his life. He was seething with anger over his defeat in the party elections. At least his two early morning back-t0-back tweets suggested so.

In the first tweet he sent out at 7am, he conceded his defeat to Rajendra Lingden. In the second one, he accused the deposed king Gyanendra of interfering in his party’s internal politics.

In the third one, he made a scathing remark against Gyanendra.

Results of the overnight voting of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party had just been announced where Thapa, 65, was defeated by Lingden, 58, for the post of party chair with 200 votes.

That there would be a tough competition between Thapa and Lingden was apparent from the very beginning of the party’s “unity convention” that kicked off in the Capital on Wednesday. There were expectations that Lingden would give Thapa a run for his money. But not many were convinced Lingden would pull off a victory. As far as Thapa was concerned, he was confident about his win.

Though Thapa lost, a majority of the leaders who won office bearer posts are from his panel. Among the four vice-chairs including one woman—Buddhi Man Tamang, Dhruba Bahadur Pradhan and Roshan Karki (women category)—won the polls from the Thapa-led panel besides Bhuwan Pathak and Kunti Kumari Shahi [women category] for the post of general secretary.

From the Lingden panel, Bikram Pandey was elected as vice-chair and Dhawal Shumsher Rana was elected general secretary.

Lingden, the only member to the House of Representatives from Rastriya Prajatantra Party, had won the 2017 elections from Jhapa Constituency-3, defeating Nepali Congress leader Krishna Prasad Sitaula.

As part of an electoral alliance, Lingden had the support of the CPN-UML led by KP Sharma Oli who recently made a comeback as party chair through the 10th national congress held in Chitwan.

Lingden’s win has brought an end to Thapa’s unilateral control over the pro-Hindu and pro-monarchy party.

Lingden was backed by youth leaders of the party.

“Actually we youths wanted a change as we had realised that our party will have no future under Thapa’s leadership,” Faniraj Lohani, chair of Yuwa Sangathan, the youth wing of the party, told the Post on Saturday before the voting started. “We decided to fight the election with a separate panel led by Rajendra Lingden because most of the pro-Hindu and pro-monarchy organisations said they would join hands with our party if Lingden takes the lead.”

Lohani was contesting for central membership but he lost.

The Post could not immediately verify if the deposed king Gyanendra had a role in Thapa’s defeat, or Lingden’s win for that matter.

A Twitter handle ‘Himani Shah @HimaniSh123’, which has the same display name as Gyanendra’s daughter in-law, sent out a tweet to congratulate Lingden. The Post could not confirm if the handle belongs to the former crown princess herself.

“Hearty congratulations and best wishes for being able to end opportunism and nepotism… with the win of Rajendra Lingden, the country has got a true nationalist leader,” @HimaniSh123 tweeted.

Thapa, replying to the tweet quote tweeted: “Since the monarchy will be restored soon, I also would like to also congratulate @HimaniSh123.”

For decades, Rastriya Prajatantra Party has been known as a club of those leaders who worked with and under the monarchy.

After the restoration of democracy in 1990 following the first people’s movement that toppled the Panchayat regime, the pro-monarchy leaders had banded together to form the political outfit. But infighting among political parties that ushered in democracy allowed the monarchists to return to power time and again. Though there were other leaders from the Panchayat era, often dubbed “panchas”, such as Surya Bahadur Thapa, Lokendra Bahadur Chand, Pashupati Shumsher Rana and Prakash Chandra Lohani among others, Thapa has been largely credited for keeping the pro-monarchy agenda alive.

The Rastriya Prajatantra Party itself has gone through several splits. The last time it came as a united entity was in March last year when Thapa-led Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Rastriya Prajatantra Party (United) led by Rana and Lohani merged.

Even after the monarchy was abolished in 2006 and the country was declared a federal republic, Thapa portrayed himself as the champion of the pro-Hindu and pro-monarchy cause.

When people rose up against Gyanendra in 2006, Thapa as the home minister in then king’s council of ministers did all he could to suppress the people’s movement.

After the promulgation of the new constitution in 2015, the pro-Hindu and pro-monarchy agenda appeared to have become a lost cause, but Thapa persisted.

But how did Thapa lose to Lingden?

Party insiders say disenchantment with Thapa had been brewing for quite a while.

“Thapa disgraced the party by joining the republican governments led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal and KP Sharma Oli after the country was declared republic,” said Lohani.

Insiders say Thapa showed duplicity—while he kept on making a pitch for the return of the monarchy and Hindu state, he happily became part of the republican governments.

When the Rastriya Prajatantra Party went into its convention, both Thapa and Lingden were in a race to prove who is carrying pro-Hindu and pro-monarchy agenda more strongly.

Despite the country being declared a secular federal republic, over the years some charm towards a Hindu state seemed to have been getting traction. And Oli, who was elected prime minister in February 2018, too lately started basing his politics on Hindu agenda.

Observers say Lingden’s victory in a way could bring him and Oli together in near future, when the country goes to the polls.

Oli, who is seen as conservative leader, during his later years as the prime minister was emerging as a leader pitching for the Hindutva cause. Observers say the claim on Ram’s birthplace in Nepal immediately after performing a puja at Pashupatinath temple had left everyone perplexed.

Analysts say Lingden’s victory could lead to new political dynamics.

“Actually, there was a deal between Lingden and Oli for their individual gains as there were thousands of RPP supporters at Oli’s constituency which was crucial for him to ensure his victory,” said Hari Roka, a political analyst. “But now with Lingden as the pro-Hindu leader, it will become much easier for Oli to work with him.”

Roka said the two parties could even forge a deal during the upcoming polls in some constituencies.

Rajendra Maharjan, also a political commentator, said Lingden has emerged as the new face promoting the pro-Hindu and pro-monarchy idea. And his victory shows his idea is getting traction, according to him.

“Lingden and Oli had relations and their cooperation is sure to continue. Though Oli may not accept the agenda of reviving monarchy, they can be together on the issues of Hindutva and anti-federalism,” said Maharjan. “It depends on who would come more aggressively on these issues, and Oli has more experience in mobilising the masses.”

Oli’s move to gain the sentiments of the Hindu voters, raising the issue of Ram and installing Jalahari at the Pashupatinath Temple also indicates that he could join hands with Lingden.

“They both could come aggressively on the issues of Hindutva… and against federalism,” said Maharjan. “We have to see how things develop. But I think Oli could even outshine Lingden on these two issues.”

Youth leaders within the Rastriya Prajatantra Party say Lingden’s victory marks a new beginning for the party while sticking to its original agendas.

“This [victory] shows a renewed commitment, especially from youths, to our party’s cause. Lingden’s win turns the new page,” said Sagun Sundar Lawoti, who won as a Central Committee member from Lingden’s panel. “Now the new leadership will bring all the pro-Hindu and pro-monarchy forces together.”

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