The old man in a hurry

The old man in a hurry


The Kathmandu Post, OCT 13 - Nepali Congress (NC) President Girija Prasad Koirala seems to be standing on shaky political ground. He finds himself at perhaps his leanest phase as party leader since the restoration of democracy in 1990. 

Many say the Grand Old Man of Nepali politics is losing sight of history and the party’s long-term interest: How could a man who led his party to power in two general elections after 1990 and oversaw a difficult transition through the Constituent Assembly elections in 2006 let history slip away at the fag end of his career? To many, Koirala’s core problem, which continues to erode his credibility, is the ailing 84-year-old’s impatience to establish as his heir, his daughter Sujata in NC politics.

“The old man has such a rich political legacy,” says an NC central committee leader, “but he is risking everything he has earned in the last six decades. He seems desperate to establish dynastic politics through his daughter Sujata.” His life seems to read like a Greek tragedy, says the NC leader, “a character flaw leading towards a mighty fall.” According to this argument, Monday’s elevation of Sujata as deputy prime minister only adds credence to the theory that Koirala is squandering his political capital in the party.

The major flaw with Koirala, according to NC CWC member Narahari Acharya, is failure to move ahead with changing times. “The habit of taking unilateral decisions has hurt him the most,” says Acharya. Whereas NC Parliamentary Party leader Ram Chandra Poudel says Koirala’s ‘love’ towards one particular person at the expense of rest of the members has been most debi-litating.

 Opinions are divided over when Koirala’s stranglehold on NC began to loosen. To many, the early seeds of dissent appeared when 36 NC lawmakers stood up against then-Prime Minister Koirala as a strong faction in the early 90s.

Acharya traces Koirala’s decline to the April 2006 movement when the parties he led, including his own NC, refused to heed his call for keeping ceremonial monarchy intact. “In fact, he had lost hold over the party much earlier but most were unaware of it.”

Many see the CWC’s firm stand on slating the Mahasamiti meeting (Nov. 1-3), which Koirala opposed, as the most recent evidence of the party’s defiance. 

“The CWC’s stand on the Mahasamiti meeting can be taken as a slap on the wrist for the octogenarian,” says a CWC member. “Koirala is desperately trying to secure positions for his loyalists, including his daughter.” The logic is that the sooner the party holds the Mahasamiti, the earlier NC will undergo massive reforms to further curtail Koirala’s influence on the party machinery.

“Currently, the NC leadership is in transition, and Koirala has to change with the time to get a safe exit,” says Binaya Dhoj Chand, another NC CWC member.  

However, CWC member Chakra Bastola believes that Monday’s decision to upgrade Sujata as deputy prime minister will backfire on him, “The time’s up for Koirala. There’s little he can do now.”


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