Girija Prasad Koirala, the PM designate, has accepted the greatest challenge of his political career. His performance and delivery in coming days will eventually write the leadline of his obituary.
Flowers and Thorns: Koirala has a history of a beleaguered PM and an appealing opposition leader Pic by Prakash Mathema
By Deepak Adhikari
When Seven Party Alliance (SPA) approved Nepali Congress chairman Girija Prasad Koirala as upcoming Prime Minister, he is bestowed with historical responsibility. If he can manage to dabble in these turbulent and transitional times, history will give credit to him.
At the moment, there is no leader of his stature. Time has given him one more opportunity to write his name in golden letters in the books of history.
Koirala’s tenure as Prime Minister is invariably marked by unpopularity, public scorn and failure to deliver to the people. He is also the longest serving PM in post 1990 era. Nowadays, he seems hand in hand with the communists such as UML and Maoists. But, few years back, he was subjected to numerous agitations and demand of resignation by them. He is always unpopular when he is in government. But surprisingly, his popularity soars when he is out of state power.
State power, however, is also his Achilles’ heel. There are numerous charges of corruptions, ranging from Dhamija to Lauda, to his credit. Critics believe, this is mainly owing to his unflagging nepotism. His family members form a coterie that clings to Girija and convinces him to indulge in irregularities. Many people believe Girija himself doesn’t have penchant for power abuse and corruption.
An analyst says: “Koirala has historical legacy but he lacks statesmanship.” Once Koirala was an ardent anti-communist. But, as the oft-quoted dictum goes: Politics made him share bed with strange fellows. He traveled all the way to Delhi to strike a deal with Maoists in order to bring them into mainstream politics. This will be the toughest task Koirala-led government will face in coming days.
I have a hazy recollection of Girija in the aftermath of Aug 1988 earthquake that ravaged the Eastern Nepal. He along with Dr. Taranath Sharma arrived; riding a green jeep loaded with relief materials for the victims, in Phidim, Headquarters of Panchthar. Very few people are aware of these humanitarian efforts during Panchayat days.
Koirala triggers stir in whatever he does. He is invariably steeped in controversies. He is not only blamed for betraying his colleague KP Bhattarai, but also blatantly dubbing young and pro-republican leaders Narahari Acharya and Gagan Thapa as agents of palace in the eve of NC’s 11 general convention. He was elected NC chairman for the third time. Similarly, with SPA’s mandate, he will be PM for the fifth time.
According to a profile written by Sudheer Sharma in Nepal Magazine two years ago, Girija was fond of reading spy novels in his salad days. His invocation of ‘grand design’ seems to be influenced by such readings. As a person, Girija is an early bird. He wakes up at around 4 am. He is served fried cashew nut and a cup of juice as breakfast. This octogenarian leader is a chain smoker. In the morning, his aides read newspapers for him and his doors are open for any visitors from 7 to 8 am.
Stubborn by nature, Girija rarely entertains journalists. He gives brief and to the point interviews in crucial time only when he has to say something. He is also famous (or infamous) for his one liners and gift of phrases.
Girija, a radical and revolutionary while-in-opposition, often takes U-turn once he climbs the ladder of state power. But, this time around, Nepali people are closely watching his moves and are ready to warn him. We hope he will strain every nerve to usher Nepal into a peaceful and loktantrik dawn.