NEW DELHI: Indian leaders who knew Girija Prasad Koirala from close quarters described him as a man with a vision, a militant democrat with enough pragmatism and also a key link between the democratic forces of Nepal and India.
Eighty-three-year old Socialist leader Surendra Mohan who has known Koirala for almost four decades described him as a noble visionary man with unfaltering commitment to democracy.
Koirala frequently visited India ever since BP Koirala and Ganesh Man Singh came to India in a self-imposed exile.
Recalling his encounter with Koirala in the period preceding the popular movement of 1990, Mohan who was a member of Indian parliament from 1978 to 1984 said it was mainly Koirala who helped rally the support of Indian leaders for Nepal’s popular movement of 1990 that eventually led to the establishment of multi party democracy in Nepal.
According to Mohan, Koirala was the only Nepali leader of his stature who came to India and telephoned his political friends in New Delhi to take part in NC’s famous conference that was held in Ganesh Man Singh’s house at Chaksibari in 1990.
That meeting proved to be crucial to take the popular movement to a new height and ultimately to fruition.
“Koirala himself called Indian leaders including Chandrasekhar and Harkishan Singh Surjit to take part in the conference,” Mohan recalled.
Mohan said Koirala’s involvement in India’s freedom movement along with his elder brother BP Koirala and other leaders of Nepali Congress helped establish a legacy of bilateral cooperation in democratic movement as a result of which many Indian leaders also took part in the NC-waged armed revolution against the Rana regime and also in the subsequent democratic movement of Nepal.
Indian leader Kuldip Jha attained martyrdom in Nepal’s armed struggle against the Ranas, according to Mohan.
Similarly NC leaders including Koirala provided support to Indian socialist leaders during India’s emergency period in the 70’s.
Vijay Pratap, National Convener of Socialist Front said Koirala was the only towering leader who was acceptable to all including the opposition party. Indian leaders also believe that Koirala was the only leader who could bring all the political forces to a compromise.
Mohan credited Koirala for the latter’s crusade against the 2005 royal takeover. It was his firm stance that led the coalition among the political parties against the then King Gyanendra and ultimately the success of people’s movement 2006, Mohan said.
Indian leaders said the political contribution of Koirala in Nepal’s movement of democracy would serve as a great example for the democratic movement of the whole South Asian region.
DP Tripathi, Chair of Nepal Democracy Solidarity Committee recalled Koirala as one of few Nepali leaders who took part in India’s freedom movement.
He said Koirala’s role in strengthening relations between India and Nepal in terms of democratic movement was crucial and exemplary.
He played a crucial role in bettering political relations between Nepal and India, said Tripathi.
“His sense of organisational skills is to be admired. It was him who helped keep the NC as the leading political force of Nepal,” Tripathi added.
“It was the clarion call by Koirala against the autocratic rule of Gyanendra that brought millions of Nepalis on the street during the 2006 movement. I doubt anybody would match that charisma at the moment,” said Pratap.
Pratap who was the co-convener of the front formed against Gyanendra’s takeover in 2005 recalled his meeting with Koirala during the parleys of 12 point agreement with UCPN-Maoist in New Delhi. In the eyes of Indian leaders, Koirala was always committed to democracy and wellbeing of the nation.
When he asked Koirala to send more Nepali politicians to New Delhi during the 12 point agreement, Koirala said he came because he felt it was his duty but others particularly the younger generation of the party was not very enthusiastic about it.
“These people (indicating his party colleague who had been attending the parleys) are only worried about the successor of my party,” Pratap recalled Koirala as saying.
Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Dr Anand Kumar who hails from Varanasi and has known the Koiralas for decades, said he was a militant socialist different from approaches of his NC troika — BP, Ganesh Man and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai — and yet a sensible statesman who always demonstrated pragmatism vis- a- vis India.
“He was always aware of Nepal’s interest but he also knew that the issue of Nepal’s nationalism could not go against the nationalism of India. Koirala very well understood the national interests of both Nepal and India. He never played China or America card with India. Nor did he play a Hindu card,” Kumar said.
According to him, whenever Koirala held dialogues with Indian leaders he was respectful of India’s interest and security concerns. Koirala never demanded more than the moderate support from India.
“Koirala knew very well that Indian leaders and establishments did not like talking through media on the issues of bilateral relations and he was successful in maintaining that decorum, Kumar commented.
According to him, Koirala understood Indian democracy very well and also the fact that maintaining relation with all the political parties of India big or small was equally important for his party in particular and the country in general. “He was a great statesman a role model in this region,” Kumar added.
The Communist Party of India CPI(M) also mourned Koirala’s death.
“It is a great loss to democracy in South Asia. At this particular time when Nepal is going through a historic
transformation towards the formation of a Republic, his role will be sorely missed,” Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said in a message from Kolkata.
Yechury, who played a crucial role in bringing the Maoists to mainstream politics, also expressed condolences on behalf of his party to the bereaved family and the people of Nepal.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs also issued a press realese in New Delhi today saying that the President, the Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister have conveyed their condolences to Sujata Koirala following the deamise of her father Girija Prasad Koirala.
“In their messages, the immense contribution of Shri Koirala to fostering and strengthening close and friendly relations between India and Nepal and his contribution and tireless dedication to the cause of peace and democracy in Nepal was recalled,” the MEA release said.