Tuesday, June 23, 2009

King Mahendra

His late Majesty King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev was born to late King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah Dev and the Senior Queen Kanti Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah on June 11, 1920 (Asar 30, 1977 B.S.) at Narayanhity Royal Palace. He studied Politics, Economics, Nepali language and culture, and also English language privately in the Palace. The study of Nepali literature and composing Nepali poems formed part of his busy life. King Mahendra married Indra Rajya Laxmi Devi on May 8, 1940, at the age of twenty. The Royal couple were blessed with 3 sons and 3 daughters. Then on 4 September 1950 Indra Rajya Laxmi Shah died and King Mahendra again married Ratna Rajya Laxmi Devi (the younger sister of Indra Rajya Laxmi Devi) on December 10, 1952. At the sudden death of King Tribhuvan on march 13, 1955 in Zurich Canton Hospital (Switzerland) King Mahendra ascended the throne of the kingdom of Nepal. His Coronation Ceremony was held on May 2, 1956. After ruling the country for 17 years, King Mahendra died at Diyalo Bangalow in Chitwan, on 31st January 1972.

When king Mahendra ascended the throne in 1955, he found that the political situation of the kingdom was deteriorating. After the downfall of Ranarchy in 1951, an interim Government was formed under the leadership of King Tribhuvan. It was a coalition Government, consisting of several political parties. The opposition party, `Gorkha Dal' became violent and acted as `Khukuri Dal'. A second cabinet was formed under the Prime Ministership of Matrika Prasad Koirala. It was purely a Congress Government but their arose a conflict between Matrika Prasad and Bishweswar Prasad Koirala, so it failed to function. Then, an advisory Council was formed under the leadership of King Tribhuvan. Again, in accordance with the demand of the people, the Advisory Council wad dissolved, and Matrika Prasad Koirala formed the third Cabinet for the second time under his Prime Ministership. As the Cabinet was composed of ministers from different political parties, it could not work in harmony.

In such a state of political instability, King Mahendra ascended the throne. He tried to control the situation of the country in his own way. He constituted an Advisory Board under his leadership and started to rule the country. The formation of the Advisory Board was opposed and criticised by democratic parties. So, King Mahendra decided to delegate the powers of administration to the representatives of the people. He tried to bring a number of reforms in the political atmosphere of the kingdom. The main political events that took place during his reign can be summarize as under:

King Mahendra invited Tanka Prasad Acharya, the leader of the Praja Parishad to form the ministry in 1955 A.D.Tanka Prasad Acharya became the Prime Minister. Other ministers of his Cabinet were Chuda Prasad, Balchandra Sharma, Pashupatinath Gosh, Gunja Man Singh, Purendra Bikram and Anirudda Prasad. Tanka Prasad Acharya visited China, and a diplomatic relation was established with China, on the basis of `Panchsheel', or Five Principles i.e., (a) mutual respect for each other's State, (b) non-aggression, (c) non-interference in each other's internal affairs, (d) equality and mutual benefit, and (e) peaceful co-existence. Tanka Prasad also visited Japan where he was awarded the title "Order of the Rising Sun". During the Prime Ministership of Tanka Prasad Acharya, preliminary steps to establish diplomatic relations with the USSR were also taken. Nepal was admitted to the membership of UNO on 14th December 1955, and also became a member of the International Labour Organization. In spite of such developments in foreign affairs, Tanka Prasad Acharya could not bring peace and order in the country. There arose conflicts among different ministers. Moreover, Tanka Prasad Acharya could not hold general elections within the fixed time which had been agreed upon. So, he had to tender his resignation and his cabinet was dissolved on 27th June 1956 (13th of Asar 2014 B.S.).

Now King Mahendra invited Dr.K.I. Singh* , the leader of the United Democratic Party, to form the Government. Dr. Singh could not get support from other political parties, so he formed a Cabinet of the United Democratic Party on 26th July 1957 (11th of Shrawan 2014 B.S.). Other ministers of Dr. Singh's Cabinet were Purendra Bikram Shah, Parshuram Mathema, C.B. Singh, Dambar Bahadur Singh, Ramadhin Mahato, Jivaraj Sharma, Kul Bahadur Limbu, Bhupal Man Singh, Padma Narasingh Rana and Laxmi Prasada Devkota, Dr. Singh attempted to get independent control, but he had to quit ruling after 110 days as Prime Minister. Thus Dr. Kunwar Indrajit Singh became the Prime Minister for the shortest period in the democratic period of the History of Nepal.

After the resignation of Dr.K.I.Singh, King Mahendra ruled directly for some time. Then he asked the representatives of different political parties if they could hold the general election in the fixed time. The Congress and the Gorkha Parishad came forward and a multi-party government was formed. This ministry was composed of the representatives of several parties, like Subarna Shumsher from the Nepali Congress, Ranadhir Subba from the Gorkha Parishad, Chandra Bhusan Pande from the Nepal Praja Parishad, Dilli Raman Regmi from the Nepali National Congress, and Purendra Bikram and Bhupal man Singh as independent members. This ministry fulfilled the desire of King Mahendra of holding a general election. In spite of certain hindrances, the general election was conducted throughout the kingdom.

King Mahendra enacted and promulgated the constitution of the kingdom of Nepal on February 12, 1959. The constitution of the kingdom of Nepal was framed by a drafting committee under the chairmanship of Bhagavati Prasad Singh, the constitutional expert of U.K. Sir Ivor Jenneings, was also invited. The 1959 constitution had ten parts and 77 Articles. The constitution was based on Parliamentary System of government. According to the constitution, Nepal was to be a democratic country. The Constitution provided two houses in the Nepalese Parliament-Pratinidhi sabha (lower house) and Mahasabha (upper house). The Pratinidhi Sabha consisted of 109 members elected by the people, and the Mahasabha consisted of 36 members, 18 of the members of the Mahasabha to be elected by the Pratinidhi Sabha and the remaining 18 to be nominated by the king. For the purpose of election, the country was divided into 109 constituencies and each constituency was to send one member to the Pratinidhi Sabha. Among other things, the Constitution contained the provisions of the fundamental Rights for the first time in the history of Nepal. The constitution provided the National Council of Ministers, the Supreme court, the Public Service Commission, Auditor General, and the Emergency powers of the king.

The first General Election was held on 18th February 1959. According to the provisions of the Constitution of the kingdom of Nepal 1959, the country was divided into 109 constituencies for the purpose of election. Nine political parties of the country contested the election. Two-thirds of the seats were won by the Nepali Congress Party, the Conservative Gorkha Parishad won 19, the United Democratic Party 5, and the Communist Party 4. In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the leader of the majority party in the Nepalese parliament, Mr.Bishweswar Prasad Koirala was sworn in as the Prime Minister on 27th May 1959.

Bishweswar Prasad included 9 Ministers and 11 Deputy Ministers in his ministry. The ministers were: Subarna Shumsher, Surya Prasad Upadhaya, Ram Narayan Misra, Ganesh man Singh, Shiva Raj Panta, Parshu Narayan Chaudhary, Tribeni Prasad and Kashinath Gautam. The Deputy Ministers were: Premraj Aang Dambe, Lalit Chand, Dwarika Devi Thakurani, Min Bahadur Gurung, Iman Singh Gurung, Netra Bahadur Malla, Yogendra Man Sherchan, Tulsi Giri, Shiva Pratap Shah, Diwan Singh Rai and Suryanath Das Yadav. B.P. Koirala tried to run the government smoothly for some time. But the Koirala government could not bring any substantial changes in the country. The widespred lawlessness was not controlled. The political leaders became power - mongers. The ministers paid more attention to strengthen their position in the party than to bring development to the country. Favouritism, red-tapism and bribery flourished in the government officers. The Nepali Congress had absolute majority and there was no strong opposition party in the Nepalese Parliament. On 15th of December 1960, King Mahendra took a bold step and arrested the leaders of the Nepali Congress including Bishweswar Prasad Koirala, Surya Prasad Upadhyaya and Ganesh Man Singh. He dismissed the Nepalese Parliament and suspended the Constitution of the kingdom of Nepal 1959. He also banned all political parties in the country. King Mahendra formed a Cabinet under his Chairmanship and included in it the prominent people selected on the basis of their personal merit. Dr. Tulsi Giri was made the Prime Minister.

Reviving the age-old Panchayat System with necessary reforms and improvements to suit in Nepal's socio-political context, he introduced it in the kingdom of Nepal. The Panchayat System received constitutional recognition in 1962 A.D. The constitution of 1962 was framed by a drafting committee under the chairmanship of Rishikesh Shah. It consisted of 6 Parts and 97 Articles. The constitution provided council of ministers, power and function of legislature, supreme court , fundamental rights and duties, power and position of the king, auditor general, public service commission etc. With the New Constitution of Nepal, the Panchayat System became the system of administration in Nepal.. Dr. Tulsi Giri was the first Prime Minister under the Panchayat System. After Dr. Giri, Surya Bahadur Thapa, Kirtinidhi Bista, Nagendra Prasad Rijal, Lokendra Bahadur Chand, and Marich Man Singh Shrestha became the Prime Ministers of the kingdom of Nepal under the Panchayat System. The Panchayat system of government introduced in 1960, continued for 3 decades, and was overthrown in a Mass Revolution of 1990 A.D.

In order to achieve efficient administration and to bring rapid progress and development in the country , King Mahendra constituted the National Planning Council. The Council had to make recommendations to His Majesty's Government for the development works in the kingdom. Again, for the administrative convenience and to bring development to all quarters of the kingdom, King Mahendra divided the kingdom of Nepal into 14 Zones and 75 Districts. This division was made after a geographical survey. Realizing that Nepal is a country of villagers, King Mahendra gave due importance for the development of villages and remote areas of the country. The introduction of "Back to the Village - National Campaign" in 1967 had been quite effective for some time. This campaign made the illiterate villagers conscious of their duties, rights and privileges and developed in them the sense of nationality, to some extent.

For the all-round development of the country, King Mahendra introduced Five-year Plans. During his reign, Nepal Rastra Bank, Rastriya Banijya Bank, Rastriya Beema Sansthan (Life Insurance Corporation) and Agriculture Development Bank, were established. Several industries including Bansbari Leather Shoes Factory, Janakpur Cigarette factory, and several others at Biratnagar, Hetauda, Patan and Balaju were established. Water Power projects at Trishuli and Panuati generated power for the industries. The construction of the Mahendra Highway was also started in his life time, the foundation stone of which was laid down by King Mahendra himself in 1962. King Mahendra protected the rights of the tenants and small farmers by the introduction of Land Reforms Act in January, 1964. He also gave emphasis to the development of the tourist trade.

For the protection of fundamental rights of the citizens, King Mahendra established the Supreme Court and reformed the judicial system of the country. He introduced the New Civil Code (Muluki Ain) on 17th August 1963 for the protection of the rights of women children and weaker sections of the society. By this Code, King Mahendra modernized the Nepali Society which was still following conservative and superstitious beliefs. The Code ensured equal treatment for all, irrespective of their caste, wealth or sex. King Mahendra constructed several inns, rest-house and water taps, in various places and renovated the existing ones. He did a lot for the protection and preservation of antiquities of the country. He also established the National Sports Council, Dasarath Stadium, Rastriya Nachghar and Rastriya Sabhagriha, for the development of education in all parts of the country. The Tribhuvan University was established during his reign. The Janak Education Material Centre and Teacher's Training Institute were also established by King Mahendra. He himself was a poet and respected the poets and writer. He also composed beautiful songs and poems in the Nepali Language. He has been regarded as the pioneer poet of the modern period of Nepali literature.

King Mahendra adopted the non-aligned foreign policy. He maintained friendly relations with the neighbouring countries and always spoke for peace, friendship and co-operation. Leading the Nepalese delegation at the Summit Conferences of Non-aligned Nations, King Mahendra reaffirmed Nepal's commitment to peace, friendship, co-operaton and co-existence. He also spoke for world peace. Because of his friendly attitude towards the international organizations and other countries, Nepal was admitted to U.NO., International Labour organization and Non-aligned Community. Nepal exchanged diplomatic reactions with 51 countries till January 1972 (during the life time of King Mahendra). King Mahendra paid State visits to America, Britain, China, India and many other countries and met many worlds leaders. He also invited the heads of the countries he visited, to Nepal. The visits of the world leaders to Nepal made Nepal known to the world. The natural beauty of Nepal attracted visitors and Nepal became the centre of tourists of all countries. In addition, Nepal got financial as well as technical aid for the development of the country from many of the advanced countries of the world. * During the revolution against the Rana Regime, Dr. Singh was made prisoner at Simha Durbar, as he didn't obey the cease-fire order according to the Delhi Agreement. He had escaped from the jail and started an armed revolution in Kathmandu. When he saw that he could not succeed in his plan, he went to China. Later on, when King Mahendra ascended the throne, he was pardoned. He came back to Nepal and formed the United Democratic Party

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