Secular Nepal ties Cong’s Karan with BJP
|BHARAT BHUSHAN, The Telegraph, Sunday, May 28, 2006|
New Delhi, May 27: “Don’t do away with the Monarchy.” “What was the hurry in proclaiming that Nepal will not be a Hindu nation?” “I am a devotee of Shankar Baba (Lord Shiva). At this rate you will do away with Lord Pashupatinath also.” “Don’t hand over power snatched from the king to the Maoists by implementing their agenda.”
These may sound like golden nuggets of advice to the Nepalese from someone from the BJP. But guess again. These homilies were delivered not by a BJP leader but by veteran Congress leader Karan Singh.
Singh, whom many believe to be India’s foreign-minister-in-waiting, offered this advice to senior politicians from Nepal. Former Nepalese foreign minister Chakra Prasad Bastola, one-time negotiator with the Maoists Shekhar Koirala and Arjun Narsingh KC of the Nepali Congress had gone calling on him this Thursday.
“We were flabbergasted. That BJP leaders should get emotional about Nepal no longer being a Hindu nation, we could understand. But where was this coming from? Why was Karan Singh speaking this language?” asked a member of the delegation.
The members of the Nepalese delegation claimed that they were surprised by such unsolicited advice. Singh also seemed upset over the Nepalese parliament proclaiming that Nepal would no longer be a Hindu but a secular nation.
“What is a secular state?” he asked them after suggesting that this was a hurried move.
Singh also advised them not to act in a manner which would end up in power taken from the king being handed over to the Maoists.
“We told him — ‘Doctor saheb, we are politicians. We work among the people. We know what to do. We have not participated in the democracy movement on behalf of the Maoists. The battle for multi-party democracy is primarily our battle. So don’t worry. We will find a middle path acceptable to all’,” one of them said.
Singh then told them he himself was a democrat — “I gave a Constituent Assembly to my state and I contest elections.”
When the Nepalese politicians quizzed him about his controversial role in forging a half-baked settlement with the king, he apparently told them: “I went with a limited brief and I had to stay within it. He (King Gyanendra) was in no mood to listen. What could I do?”
After meeting Singh, Gyanendra had made a proclamation on Nepal TV. Ostensibly meant to be a compromise resulting out of consultations with Singh, it had the opposite impact. It provoked people to such an extent that more than five lakh protesters descended on the streets of Kathmandu the very next morning abusing Gyanendra and the monarchy.
Like Singh, the BJP, too, seemed worried by the prospect of Nepal “losing its true identity”. BJP president Rajnath Singh, according to the visiting Nepalese delegation, got “very emotional” over their country no longer calling itself a “Hindu nation”.
“Don’t give up your language and don’t give up your religion. These define your national identity,” he advised them. The BJP president also told them not to abolish the monarchy. “We are not bothered whether this king remains on the throne or not. But there should be a king in Nepal,” he apparently told them.
However, one of them said: “Unlike in Karan Singh’s case, we could understand why Rajnath Singh said what he did. He, in fact, apologised for getting overly emotional over Nepal no longer being a Hindu nation, saying, ‘I think I should not have spoken so much (about it)’.”
While some Hindu organisations in Nepal are trying to rope in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in their attempt to keep Nepal Hindu, the BJP, it seems, does not want to mix anti-monarchy sentiments with pro-Hindu state sentiments.
Thus, former foreign minister Yashwant Sinha advised the Nepalese delegation to make sure that the anti-monarchy issue did not get mixed up with the issue of a Hindu nation.