Amid Nepal's chaos, royalists spy chance for a comeback

Amid Nepal's chaos, royalists spy chance for a comeback

KATHMANDU - Just a few years ago, Nepal's royal family looked consigned to the history books.

A palace massacre by an unhinged crown prince in 2001, in which the king and eight members of his family were killed, was followed seven years later by the abolition of the monarchy by a Maoist-dominated special legislative assembly.

But the Himalayan nation's political and economic fortunes have dipped alarmingly since then, opening a window of opportunity for die-hard supporters of the monarchy to stage a comeback.

The Rastriya Prajantantra Party Nepal, a royalist group led by Kamal Bahadur Thapa, who was interior minister at the height of anti-monarchy protests, has found a way back into the political fray with a strident campaign to once again make Nepal the world's only Hindu state.

"Our main agenda is a Hindu state with a constitutional monarchy," Thapa told Reuters. "The monarchy should be the last custodian of the country during the times of crisis."

"We want Nepal to be a Hindu nation where all religions will co-exist, all religions will be free and equal. There will be no discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs," said the former national football player, immaculately dressed in skin-tight trousers, a knee-length shirt and a traditional boat-shaped Nepali cap.

India, which lies to landlocked Nepal's south, east and west, also has a Hindu majority but is secular. China is on the north giving fragmented and impoverished Nepal a key strategic position between Asia's two giants.

The royalists' new-found clout could further complicate the struggle to build a stable democracy in a country that is riven by the competing agendas of Maoists, centrist groups and regional parties. Nepal has not had a constitution or a stable government since the overthrow of the monarchy.

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