The Kathmandu Post Special Editorial on Girija Prasad Koirala

The Kathamndu Post MAR 20, 2010
That the nation faces the gravest crisis in a generation is uncontested. The fate of the nation hangs in the balance as the deadline for the new constitution approaches and the Maoists and the non-Maoist parties continue to have deep differences about how the Maoist ex-combatants should be treated and a number of other constitution-making issues.

The peace process continues on a free fall in the lack of political ownership. Two years after they were elected, the parties represented in the Constituent Assembly continue to lose public confidence about their capacity in delivering the sacred task they were entrusted with: making of the new constitution. Infighting among and within the parties has led Nepali people to wonder whether the CA will be able to deliver the new constitution by May 28. And should that not be possible, will the constitutional process be derailed? What will be the result? Are we headed towards renewed confrontation and bloodbath? The closer the deadline gets, each party is questioning the sincerity of the other in making the new constitution.

Death today of Girija Prasad Koirala is a serious jolt to the peace process. The evolution of the communist-baiter of the 90s into an indispensable negotiator was remarkable. He would routinely come up with virulent anti-communist tirades. In 1990-91, during the Interim era when he was still tightening his hold on the Grand Old Party, he famously clubbed communists and then-infamous former Panchas together—“Male, Mandale ra Masale yekai hoon.”

After the restoration of democracy in 1990, Koirala steadily grew in stature in national politics. As a four-time prime minister and the leader of the successful Jana Andolan II in 2006, the Nepali Congress president towered over other politicians. The fact that election to the Constituent Assembly and the movement against an absolute monarch came in the backdrop of great odds refurbished his waning stature.

But it is his evolution as a mature and conciliatory statesman that emerged after 2002 that the nation will miss the most. The success of the Jana Andolan II had a lot to do with his newfound talent to reach out to other parties and abandon the hard anti-communist posture. He not only accommodated the
CPN-UML, which had in part supported the royal takeover, but also assiduously reached out to the Maoists. The 12-point agreement that was singed in November 2005 in New Delhi marked a historical shift in his — and national—politics: the Maoists were no more the pariah they were made out to be since they launched the “people’s war” in 1996 and successive governments headed by the Nepali Congress was at the receiving end of the insurgency that had overt class implications. 

The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) by Koirala and Maoist Chairman Prachanda in November 2006 marked the
high point of his political career. It officially marked the cessation of hostilities in the decade-long armed conflict between the Maoists and the state.

Unsurprisingly, the loss of Koirala and his moderating politics is most acutely felt by the Maoist leadership. “I saw him evolve into a towering figure in Nepali politics who tirelessly reached out to the communists,” an emotional Prachanda told this newspaper on Saturday evening. “His death leaves behind a big void.” Void Koirala’s departure does leave behind. But we ask political parties, including the
UCPN (Maoist) leadership, to learn a lesson from Koirala’s own political evolution: there will be differences between and within the parties; those differences need to be respected and dealt with politically.

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