Monday, March 29, 2010

Girija Prasad Koirala: Architect of Democratic Nepal

A man who grew up under the visionary mentorship of father Krishna Prasad Koirala, and later elder brother Bishwesar Prasad Koirala {BPK}have played very pivotal role in the crucial political development of Nepal that’s span ranging almost for six long decades. Girija Prasad Koirala {GPK}, through his stout democratic vision and its execution, secured for himself a position that was never been a streamed precedence in Nepali politics-that towering stature in national politics also imparted him an inevitable crucial position in entire South Asian region.
Through his stellar performances, with maintaining steadfast attitude in his working style, he truly secured a position in Nepal’s politics that makes even his ardent critics unviable to completely staring him out from any political developments in last six decades.

This tallest figure of Nepalese politics was the youngest of the six children of Krishna Prasad Koirala and Divya Koirala-he was born in Birpur{Saharsa, North Bihar} in 1924 and later moved to Varanasi where his family was compelled to settle down and keep their struggle alive against the Rana regime in exile; city of Varanasi indeed appeared as a safe camouflage for them-there the Koirala’s grew up, studied and started sharing great bonds with the contemporary Indian politics which was entirely focused independence struggle.
The time was of ripe unrest in both the country that was sensed very well by visionary B.P.koirala and made endeavor for wider democratic activism in the region-it wouldn’t be an exaggeration, if his participation in Quit India Movement in 1942 and three years imprisonment for the cause of Indian independence may be regarded as peak of co-operation between two neighboring country. He succeeded enough here to mobiles Indian support to overthrow Rana regime {1846-1950} in 1950 and subsequently reached to a very comprehensive Delhi Agreement with the help of Indian interlocution led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

Apart from many significant moves, this treaty made way forward for parliamentary democracy in Nepal-that was genesis of democracy as an idea in the Himalayan Kingdom and naturally pioneering have been started from the Koirala’s. Although Shah Regime didn’t resolute their pledge until 1958, when the first Parliamentary elections was convened under its patriarch, B.P.Koirala who further won the majority to rule-he became the first Prime Minister of Nepal albeit couldn’t prolong it in the wake of dissolution of democracy by the King Mahendra.
The next thirty years remained the struggle phase for democratic maneuverings-being the supreme rank of opposition, B.P.Koirala had to face the ire of Monarchy; he was imprisoned for eight years to contain the democratic move by Nepali Congress. This period of adverseness bestowed upon young brothers-Matrika Prasad Koirala and Girija Prasad Koirala to play key organizational leadership-death of B.P.Koirala in 1982, further maximized the potential for Girija Prasad Koirala in next order of politics in Nepal.

Indeed GPK shown his great capacity as successor of his family values-his father, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, who died in imprisonment for his pro-democracy convictions and later elder brother, B.P Koirala’s life long commitment for socialism and non-alignment infused in him a great taste of democracy and relentless struggle for its materialization. Since the inception of Nepali Congress in 1947 {at Varanasi, India} by the exiled Nepali political activists, he remained a profound voice within the party and indulged himself even in illicit act like hijacking a Plane and printing of fake Indian currency to assist the violent revolution for democracy in 1970’s but on the twilight of the decade, Nepali Congress moved for peaceful means which also reduced the reason of illicitness.
He must be given maximum credit for endowing Nepali Congress, a principal for parliamentary democracy with place for constitutional Monarchy-probably, such shrewd tracts with mix of pragmatism empowered him to serve as Prime Minister for record five times albeit without completing the entire tenure.

Strong stuckness with power also led him for lot of criticism that especially derived from his autocratic manner in party line, corruption and in last phase of his overt nepotism to back his unpopular daughter Sujata Koirala who is now the deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in present government. For personnel rise too, he deftly sidelined the two measure force of Nepali Congress-Ganesh Man Singh and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai after the restoration of democracy in 1991; Nepali Congress won the majority and he as a top choice became the Prime Minister.
Though his tectonic shift from a rebellion and a Trade Union leader {In early phase of career, Birgunj}to top legislative representative didn’t happened without compromising on ideological and ethical front-throughout his stint, he maintained one-man domination in party by applying marginalization of senior leaders and promoting nepotism. Corruption was on all time high during his first three years in Prime Minister Office which fetched him stout criticism and condition of resignation; such initiation was indeed very unfortunate for the democratic foundation of Nepal.

Anyway, he remained unconvinced through all these developments and kept working as a maverick in Nepali politics-he played a well choreographed role during the decade long Maoist insurgency and transition of Royal rule; his next stint as PM between 1998 and 2000 was very crucial from contemporary perspective. His pragmatic role after the unfortunate Royal Massacre in 2001 and later in 2002, when King Gyanendra dismissed a democratic government, submitting power to loyal nominees couldn’t deter his systematic resoluteness for power. In2003, like a true leader, initiated contact with the underground Maoist rebels and further fall of the 2005 deadline given by the King for executive power led the seven parties to signing the 12-point agreement {In Delhi, November 2005, with the Indian help}that stroked the historic people’s movement of April2006.
After the peoples movement, 240 years old Royal rule was collapsed in2008; now Koirala again had to play a pivotal role to track the country’s back to peace and development as Prime Minister albeit it was not materialized in proper manner-indeed this phase was peak in his career except a single unfulfilled dream left, to be the first President of “Republic of Nepal” due to expected spat with Maoists. He drafted a mix fortune for Nepali Congress in his life time where he led Nepali Congress to the peak but couldn’t succeeded to prepare a second tier leadership which now haunting the party very dearly besides on many macro policies, he failed to led Nepal towards out of corruption, instability, economic and other social deprivations. Despite some odds, whenever this giant of Nepali politics stood in his Daura-Suruwal, he always appeared as a voice of nation and very much synonymous with the democracy. Indeed passing of Girija Prasad Koirala marks an end of era-both in Nepal and subcontinental politics.
Atul Kumar Thakur
March24th2010 {Wednesday}
New Delhi


  1. Though I am not so aware about the politics of Nepal,but reading this article entrusted me an insight about it...Girija Prasad Koirala and his family have strong bearing over the culmination of democracy in Nepal.My quotient about the article falls within the must read category.

  2. Dear Atul,
    Good to hear from you and to see that you have profiled some most unusual and interesting characters (GP Koirala, Michael Foot) in your blog.
    I am in the US, en route to Israel, back home in May.

    with regards

    R. Guha

  3. Liked your piece on giant Girija Prasad Koirala,indeed he was very remarkable in India as well-his demise would be sensed as a true moderator.