Rajendra Lingden has been elected RPP chairman defeating the incumbent Kamal Thapa in the general convention.
Lingden's victory has been unexpected for everyone, more so for Thapa who was confident of prevailing in the pro-monarchy party established by royalists after restoration of democracy in 1990 and nurtured by Thapa after the country abolished monarchy in 2006.
Lingden beat 67-year-old Thapa, who started politics as a bright prospect during the Panchayat regime with leadership of the palace-backed student wing notorious as 'Mandaleys' and is now a doyen of monarchist politics, by 227 votes securing 1,844 votes on Sunday.
As strong a royalist legacy that Thapa has built over the decades establishing himself as a shrewd and accomplished politician, his long political career has also exposed his glaring weaknesses.
Thapa was appointed minister in the coalition government of RPP and CPN-UML led by RPP leader Lokendra Bahadur Chand in 1997 but he betrayed his prime minister conniving with Nepali Congress (NC) that proposed to make Surya Bahadur Thapa, Chand's archrival from RPP, to break the RPP-UML alliance just six months later.
Chand made a comment on Thapa and others who ditched him as his government looked set to fall comparing them with the rats fleeing a sinking ship. The rat tendency pointed by Chand has been established as a strong symbol in Nepali politics and the symbol has fitted Thapa to a T.
Politics makes strange bedfellows and Thapa has bedded all kinds of strangers for the sake of power. His connivance with all and sundry to become minister ultimately weakened the agenda of monarchy and Hindu state that RPP propagated.
The epitome of his legendary alliances was the farcical support of this life-long monarchist for the proposal to elect Bidya Devi Bhandari as the president of the Republic of Nepal in 2015 after his RPP allied with UML and CPN (Maoist Center) to topple the Sushil Koirala government.
His crowning glory was winning 24 seats through proportional representation (PR) system in the Second Constituent Assembly Election in 2013 despite winning no seat through the first past the post (FPTP) system. He even expressed opposition to the republican Constitution promulgated in 2015.
But he undid all that and more by joining the coalition government formed immediately after promulgation of that very republican Constitution in 2015 and made a mockery of his monarchist credentials by supporting the candidacy of Bhandari for president.
Such opportunism and 'rat tendency' provided strong groundwork for Lingden to win in the latest general convention.
Another reason for Thapa's loss is Thapa's fellow chairman duo Pashupati Shumsher Rana and Prakash Chandra Lohani who did not contest for chairman this time for the sake of party unity. Lohani publicly backed Lingden while Rana did not genuinely campaign to solicit votes for Thapa despite issuing a bland rebuttal of reports about his endorsement of Lingden clarifying that he is not for 'immature' leadership just before the election.
Thapa was also unaware about the surging wave in the party demanding generational handover of leadership. Thapa, who had never competed in internal election in the party, ignored campaigning due to the supreme confidence about his victory and was was busy in closed sessions even as Lingden was busy seeking votes with the general convention representatives.
Another reason for Thapa's loss is Nirwal Niwas (Gyanendra's residence) or the erstwhile royal family. The Nirwal Niwas is said to be unhappy with Thapa, who was the second ranked member in the Cabinet chaired by Gyanendra at the time of Janaandolan II in 2006, for misguiding the palace during the direct rule as the government's popularity plummeted. His political gymnastics and alliances with republican forces after that did not help his popularity with Gyanendra.
He has taken to Twitter to condemn what he called naked intervention of the Nirwal Niwas in the general convention. "I have been relieved and liberated. I have been rewarded today for walking around wearing a shroud on the head (taking mortal risks) carrying the institution of monarchy since 2006 when the whole country turned republican," Thapa has tweeted tagging a handle of Gyanendra that has not been officially verified. "May the king be blessed for the endeavor to politically finish the main propagator of that agenda."
There were rumors about the displeasure of Nirmal Niwas with Thapa during the general convention and Lingden was able to present himself as the bona fide royalist trusted by the palace itself.
Lingden has been enthroned in the monarchist party at a time when clamor particularly for Hindu state and even monarchy is said to be rising with some leaders of Nepali Congress batting for Hindu state and UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli's nationalist agenda taking a rightist turn on the chariot of Ram-powered Hinduism.
President of Bibeksheel Sajha Rabindra Mishra has gone ahead of them all and demanded a plebiscite on secularism to piggyback on the Hindu vote bank to power in a country with an overwhelming Hindu majority.
Lingden, who is a first-time lawmaker and has never been a minister, will have the challenge of at least repeating Thapa's feat of Second CA Election in the next general election if not bettering that at this time of perceived support for the party's core agenda preventing Bibeksheel Sajha, UML and even NC from eating into that Hindu vote bank.