Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala

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Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala
बिश्वेश्वर प्रसाद कोइराला
Bp koirala delhi 1951.jpg
Home Minister Koirala visits New Delhi, India, in 1951
22nd Prime Minister of Nepal
In office
27 May 1959 – 15 December 1960
Monarch Mahendra
Preceded by Subarna Shamsher Rana
Succeeded by Tulsi Giri
2nd President of the Nepali Congress
In office
26 May 1952 – 24 January 1956
Preceded by Matrika Prasad Koirala
Succeeded by Subarna Shamsher Rana
In office
23 May 1957 – 21 July 1982
Preceded by Subarna Shamsher Rana
Succeeded by Krishna Prasad Bhattarai
Home Minister of Nepal
In office
21 February 1951 – 12 November 1951
Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher
Personal details
Born (1914-09-08)8 September 1914
Varanasi, British India
(now India)
Died 21 July 1982(1982-07-21) (aged 67)
Kathmandu, Nepal
Political party Nepali Congress
Spouse(s) Sushila Koirala
Alma mater Scottish Church College
Banaras Hindu University
University of Calcutta
Signature
Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala meets David Ben-Gurion during a visit to Israel

Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala (Nepali: विश्वेश्वरप्रसाद कोइराला; 8 September 1914 – 21 July 1982), commonly known as B. P. Koirala, was a Nepali politician and a prolific writer. He was the Prime Minister of Nepal from 1959 to 1960. He led the Nepali Congress, a social democratic political party.

Koirala was the first democratically elected and 22nd Prime Minister of Nepal. He held the office for 18 months before being deposed and imprisoned at the instruction of King Mahendra. The rest of his life was spent largely in prison or exile and in steadily deteriorating health.[1]

Widely regarded as one of the greatest political personalities of Nepal, Koirala was a staunch supporter of democracy. He asserted that guarantees of individual liberty and civil and political rights alone were not sufficient in a poor country like Nepal; democratic socialism was the solution to Nepal’s underdevelopment.[2]

Early life[edit]

The second son of Krishna Prasad Koirala, a follower of Mahatma Gandhi, Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala was raised in Benares. [3] Until the age of 14, he atended a school established by his father. Afterwards he joined the Harishchandra School in the city. He began writing when he was in the ninth grade.[4] When asked how he became interested in politics, Koirala said, "There was politics in the blood of my family. My father had to leave Nepal when I was three years old. Everyone in the family had a warrant of arrest against him; our entire property was confiscated. We were in exile in India for twelve years [1917–1929] so I had my schooling in India, and thereafter I joined college there."[citation needed]

The British Raj charged him and his brother, Matrika Prasad Koirala, with having contacts with terrorists in 1930. They were arrested and set free after three months. Because of this, Bishweshwar began to study at the Scottish Church College in Calcutta as per his father's wishes. Towards the end of 1930, he left college and returned to Benares. In 1932, he completed his intermediate level of studies. His father again insisted that his son join Scottish Church College in Calcutta. So for the second time, he joined the college, but left it soon afterwards. In 1934, he completed his bachelor's degree in Economics and Politics from Banaras Hindu University.[5] He also earned a degree in Law from the University of Calcutta in 1937, and practised for several years in Darjeeling. While still a student, he became involved in the Indian nationalist movement. In 1934, he joined the Indian National Congress. During World War II, he was interned by the British in Dhanbad for two years (1942–1944).

Political career[edit]

Following his release, with Indian independence imminent, he set about trying to bring change to Nepal. In 1947 he founded from India the socialist Nepali National Congress, which in 1950 became the Nepali Congress Party. On 9 March 1947, Koirala crossed over to Nepal for helping brother Girija Prasad Koirala instigate the Biratnagar jute mill strike. He was arrested along with Girija Prasad Koirala and four other National Congress leaders and taken with his fellow agitators to Kathmandu via a 21 days long, slow walk across the hills. The prisoners' march attracted much attention and helped to radicalise the peasants whose villages lay en route. The Koirala along with other detainees were kept in Kathmandu bungalow but were soon released after a 27-day hunger strike, popular protests, and at the request of Mahatma Gandhi in August 1947[6] B.P. went back to India, and began looking for arms to storm Kathmandu. Finally Koirala led the Revolution of 1951 which overthrew Nepal's 104-year-old Rana regime. The last Rana prime minister was dismissed in October 1951 when the Rana-Congress coalition cabinet (in which Koirala served for nine months as the Home minister) broke apart. Koirala then concentrated on developing the Nepali political structure. King Mahendra responded with a new constitution enabling free parliamentary elections to take place in 1959. Only a fragmented parliament was expected, but Koirala's Nepali Congress scored a landslide, taking more than two-thirds of the seats in the lower house. After several weeks of significant hesitation, Mahendra asked Koirala to form a government, which took office in May 1959.

Koirala led his country's delegation to the United Nations and made carefully poised visits to China and India, then increasingly at odds over territorial disputes. Yet, he was in trouble at home almost from the beginning. His land reform measures, especially the revision of the tenancy laws so easily passed by parliament, deeply offended the landed aristocracy which had long dominated the army. King Mahendra, on 15 December 1960, suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament, dismissed the cabinet, imposed direct rule, and for good measure imprisoned Koirala and his closest government colleagues. Many of them were released after few months, but Koirala, though he was suffering from throat cancer, was kept imprisoned without trial until 1968. In 1968 the then Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, who led the liberal group in the Rastriya Panchayat, played a significant role in releasing B. P. Koirala from prison. Later in June, Mr. Thapa had to resign because of pressure from hardliners for releasing Mr. Koirala from prison. Then he finally left on a self-exile to live in Banaras.[7]

King Birendra, educated in England and the United States, succeeded his father in 1972 when the political climate was believed to be gradually improving. Koirala, however, was arrested immediately upon his return from exile in 1976 and charged with the capital offense of attempting armed revolution. Finally, in March 1978, he was cleared of all treason and sedition charges. Then, in 1981, he was cleared to travel to the United States for medical treatment. The Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa convinced the king to allow Mr. B. P. Koirala to proceed to the U.S. for treatment as per recommendation from the royal physician Dr. M. R. Pandey. The government of Nepal bore a portion of the cost of his medical treatment in the U.S., while the rest was arranged by his nephew Shail Updhaya, Dr. Shukdev Shah, family and friends.

After returning from a further medical visit to the United States, he had a series of audiences with King Birendra, as he tried for a "national reconciliation". During the student demonstrations in 1979, he was under house arrest. However, he welcomed King Birendra's call for a national referendum on the question of the political system for Nepal. The referendum results were announced to be in favor of retaining the political system led by the king. B. P. Koirala was the first leader to welcome the result of the national referendum and accepted the people verdict and claimed that the referendum was fair and free. However, owing to differences in the electoral process to seek membership of class organization as mandatory, Koirala demanded a boycott of the 1981 elections. Despite obviously failing health and political strength, Koirala could still draw a great popular support. He addressed one of Nepal's largest public meetings in recent years in Kathmandu's Ratna Park in January 1982. He died on 21 July 1982, in Kathmandu. An estimated half a million people attended his funeral.

Literature[edit]

Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala

While Koirala is considered one of the most charismatic political leader of Nepal, he was also one of the most well-read and thoughtful writers of Nepalese literature. He wrote short stories and novels, and some poems. BP Koirala began writing short stories in Hindi. His first stories were published in Banaras in Hansa, a Hindi literary magazine edited by Prem Chand (India's Tolstoy). His first Nepali short story "Chandrabadan" was published in Sharada, a Nepali literary magazine in 1935. Koirala was very good at depicting the character and mind of women. Four other stories of Koirala were included in Katha Kusum (an anthology of Nepali stories), published in 1938 in Darjeeling, place attacked by India which was of Nepal in past. As a social realist, with good psychological insight as he was first writer to write stories and novels based on human psychology in history of Nepalese literature, Koirala had established himself as one of the most important Nepali short story writers by 1938. Doshi Chashma [Guilty Glasses], Koirala's anthology of sixteen short stories, was published in 1949. He was one of great writer to contribute in nepali literature.

Koirala was very busy in the 1950s as he was in the center of Nepal's national politics. He was, however, able to write an incomplete novel Hitlar ra Yahudi (Hitler and the Jews) in the form of travelogue. The 1960s were very productive for Koirala in terms of his literary output. He wrote many novels and short stories in jail during 1960–68. They include: Tin Ghumti (Three Turns), 1968; Narendra Dai (Brother Narendra), 1969; Sumnima (A story of the first Kirata woman), 1969; Modiain (The Grocer's Wife), 1980; Shweta Bhairavi (The White Goddess of Terror), 1983; Babu Ama ra chora (Father, mother and sons), 1989; and an incomplete autobiography Mero Katha (My Story), 1983, and many more yet to be published.[8]

Koirala also has dozens of political essays including the following: "Rajatantra ra Lokatantra" ("Monarchy and Democracy"), 1960; "Thichieka Janata Jagisake" ("The Oppressed People Rise"), 1969; "Rastriyata Nepalko Sandarbhama" ("Nationalism in the Context of Nepal"), 1970; "Kranti: Ek Anivaryata" ("Revolution: An Absolute Necessity"), 1970; "Panchayati Vyavastha Prajatantrik Chaina" ("The Panchayat System is not Democratic"), 1978; "Prajatantra ra Samajvad" ("Democracy and Socialism"), 1979; and "Rastriya Ekata ko Nimti Ahwan" ("A Call for National Reconciliation"), 1980.

Koirala's writings (both political and literary) were banned until recently. Nepalese youths spent several years of imprisonment just on the charges of possessing Koirala's writings. Another problem is that his rare and important writings have been scattered all over. Old newspapers and magazines (including the underground publications) have to be researched. Libraries, museums, and archives in Kathmandu, Banaras, Calcutta, New Delhi, London, Paris, Berkeley, Stanford, and many other places have to be visited to collect the materials on Koirala. As a result, one can hope to produce volumes of his political writings and literary works.

Koirala was the focus of Nepalese politics during the 1950s, 1960s, and the 1970s. Even today, long after his death, people of Nepal feel that the restoration of multi-party democracy is a tribute to him. Koirala was also one of the most important literary figures of Nepal. In politics Koirala was a social democrat; in literature he was an existentialist especially in his novel Tin Ghumti (Three Turns). He said that he wrote his literary works to satisfy his anarchist impulses, impulses which revolted against the traditional order of things. But as a social democrat he was in search of a political order that was agreeable to every citizen of Nepal.

As a politician, Koirala struggled throughout his life for the establishment of a multi-party democracy in his country. Traditional forces, still strong to resist such effort, made it very hard for "B. P." to accomplish his political mission. As a social democrat, Koirala differed with communists; as he often said man cannot live by bread alone. He also differed with the capitalists as he thought that unbridled consumerism was immoral, and that the appalling exploitation of the world's resources was short-sighted and unrealistic. He believed that only socialism could guarantee political freedom and equal economic opportunities to the people. He said, "socialism is the wave of the future."

Koirala had studied economics, logic, literature, and law. He was a voracious reader of English, German, French, Russian, Hindi, Bengali and Nepali literature. His educational background and artistic genius combined in his own works to present a view of life in an artistic, logical and compelling manner. He would thus shake the conscience of Nepali readers by questioning their unreflective acceptance of the traditional value systems.

Koirala's short stories were first published in the 1930s in Hindi and Nepali literary magazines. Koirala first came to notice in Nepali literature because often his characters seemed to have been treated with an understanding of Freudian psychoanalysis. Even when a short story or novel of Koirala was not Freudian in its approach, it was still noteworthy to Nepali readers because he presented an unconventional approach to life.

Modiain (The Grocer's wife) is probably his shortest novel. In Modiain Koirala looks at the Mahabharata war from the point of view of a young woman who loses her husband to the war. This woman was not alone. There were hundreds of thousands of young women who were widowed by the war. Thus, Koirala presents a passionate plea against the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, which assumes that the world is but an illusion and thus makes life and death a meaningless phenomena and that the observance of one's own duty is the ultimate priority. Koirala was against war, and by looking at the Vedanta philosophy and the issue of war from a war widow's point of view, he once again shakes the conscience of the Nepali readers who generally tend to accept the philosophy of Vedanta especially its idea of karma (fate). Characteristically, Koirala presents one more instance in which he analyzes the mind of a woman, as he did in most of his short stories and novels.

Legacy[edit]

The following institutions have been set up in his memory:

  1. In 1992, the BP Koirala Nepal Health Foundation was inaugurated by the prime ministers of India and Nepal with the objective of supplementing the normal cooperation and interaction at the Government-to-Government level by providing statesmen, media persons, etc. to constantly nurture and further enhance the understanding and friendship between two countries. The trust is a symbol of Nepali renaissance [9][10]
  2. In 1992, the Government of Nepal has established the B.P. Koirala Memorial Planetarium, Observatory and Science Museum Development Board in 1992 in order to establish Planetaria, Observatories and Science Museums in Nepal & conduct research activities in the area of Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology [11][12]

Also, various programs are organized in Nepal as well as outside Nepal to remember his selfless contributions to Nepal.[13][14][15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

[16]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Doshi Chasma

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Subarna Shamsher Rana
Prime Minister of Nepal
1959–1960
Succeeded by
Tulsi Giri