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Never say die Koirala to be Nepal PM once again

Written by: Staff

Kathmandu, Apr 25: For Girija Prasad Koirala, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Nepal and arguably the tallest leader in the Himalayan Kingdom, life had come a full circle.

In 1991, Mr Koirala became Nepal's first elected prime minister in 30 years when his social democratic Nepali Congress won elections after then King Birendra gave in to a popular and violent demand for multi-party democracy.

A similar mass campaign this month against King Gyanendra, Birendra's brother who dissolved the parliament and assumed absolute power last year, culminated in the monarch agreeing to reinstate parliament, leading to Mr Koirala's return to power.

The President of the Nepali Congress, Mr Koirala, has been active in politics for over sixty years and started his career as a labour leader in the Jute mills of his hometown Biratnagar.

He had been the Prime Minister of Nepal four times, from 1991 to 1994, from 1998 to 1999, from 2000 until 2001, and from 2006.

Considered a controversial figure by many people, Mr Koirala has been criticised for quashing dissidence in his party with an iron fist. Many people also allege that he has been tolerant of numerous corrupt dealings that occurred under his administrations.

The Nepali Congress chief emerged as the most prominent leader in the ongoing pro-democracy movement against King Gyanendra and was believed to be instrumental in aligning all anti-king forces under one banner.

He was forced to leave office for the first time in November 1994 because the Nepali Congress was unable to continue a coalition government, and for the third time in July 2001 when he resigned amidst the turmoil following the deaths of many members of the royal family who were killed by the crown prince.

Koirala, 84, has been a witness both to the days of nascent democracy and the chaos. The fact he himself has been the premier of the Himalayan Kingdom is proof enough of the political instability.

He has a ready challenge in his hands, when he take over the mantle again, as the Maoists who had supported the the struggle for the restoration of democracy, has categorically ''rejected and dismissed'' King Gyanendra's announcement of revival of the sacked Parliament.

They have castigated the seven-party alliance for welcoming the announcement ''unilaterally,'' terming it a violation of the ''spirit behind the 12-point agreement and against the hope and sentiment of the Nepalese people.'' But for the never-say-die leader, challenges were never unwelcome.

The leader who never went to college is credited with introducing sweeping economic reforms and privatisation in the face of communist objections.

Nearly 60 years ago, Mr Koirala had organised a labour strike in a jute mill against the then hereditary prime minister from the Rana family and, as punishment, had to walk for 45 days from his hometown, Biratnagar, in east Nepal, to Kathmandu.

Years later, when King Mahendra, father of the present monarch, banned political parties in 1960, Koirala spent seven years in jail and later went into exile in neighbouring India for opposing absolute monarchy.


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