May 25, 2020
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Nepal: Hindu Hopes, Royal Expectations Too

Nepal: Hindu Hopes, Royal Expectations Too
THE possibility of the BJP forming the government, either on its own or with the support of various other parties, has triggered heated discussions in this tiny Hindu kingdom.

The prospects of the Congress being re-elected does not enthuse the masses much. Except for the maintenance of status quo, the man-on-the-street expects little from the Congress.

But even the silent expectation among the nation's Hindus that things may change for the better if the BJP comes to power is laced with reservations. Amidst rumours that the Palace is funding the poll campaigns of some Hindu leaders in India, there are fears that the monarchy in Nepal may begin to reassert itself if the BJP wins in India.

While no one disputes that a BJP victory will have significant bearing on Nepal-India ties as well as power equations within the kingdom, reactions vary. Some, like the president of the Nepal unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and former cabinet minister, Achyut Raj Regmi, express unbounded optimism. Others remain cautious and some others a little wary.

"A BJP victory will give Nepal-India ties a headstart," says Hari Bansh Jha, an economist at Tribhuvan University. "We will be the most important neighbour for India." 

Relatively speaking, a coalition with a leftist presence would be the best bet for Nepal, feels political analyst Ananda Aditya, pointing out that the leftists are likely to be less chauvinistic than either the Congress or the BJP. "Look at the hawala scandal. The communists are just about the only force which looks balanced and sane. They are also secular. If the BJP begins to practise Hindu fanaticism, it could have sinister implications in Nepal as well," he says.

After the establishment of democracy in 1990, the powers of Nepal's Hindu monarch were curtailed. However, some observers say Nepal went too far in being politically correct and in undermining the sentiments of the majority Hindus. The result, they point out, was that Christian missionaries and Muslim zealots made most of the legislative loopholes, and helped by official connivance, converted thousands of poor and untouchable Hindus.

 "Nepali Hinduism isn't quite the fiery Hindutva as practised in India," says Bijaya Karna, editor of the daily Everest Herald. Nor does Nepal have a centuries-old history of hostile ethnic relations. "The BJP's influence will, if anything, sow seeds of xenophobic politics," he argues.

 Nepal has always got a better bargain whenever there was a non-Congress government in India. Atal Behari Vajpayee's tenure as India's foreign minister is seen by some as a 'high tide' in Nepal-India relations. India had then agreed to Nepal's request to sign separate trade and transit treaties but Rajiv Gandhi's refusal later to update it led to an 18-month transit impasse.

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