Five-time PM Surya Bahadur Thapa passes away

KATHMANDU: Former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa‚ who was fighting cancer in a Gurgaon hospital in India‚ died tonight after suffering multiple-organ failure. He was 87.

The veteran leader was recently diagnosed with stomach cancer and had undergone gastrectomy at Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon on April 10. Accompanied by his son — Minister for Commerce and Supplies Sunil Bahadur Thapa — the founder of Rastriya Prajatantra Party had left for New Delhi on March 29.

His grandson Siddhartha Thapa confirmed that the five-time prime minister breathed his last at the hospital during the course of treatment at around 10:50pm. Thapa’s condition deteriorated at around 5pm and he was shifted to the Intensive Care Unit. “Subsequently he suffered multiple-organ failure and was kept on ventilator. Doctors pronounced him dead at around 10:50pm‚” Siddhartha confirmed.

According to family sources‚ Thapa had an open heart surgery in the United States 25 years ago. Thapa was also treated for two weeks at Norvic International Hospital following a cardiac arrest in 2012.

Born on 21 March 1928 in Muga village of Dhankuta district‚ Thapa became prime minister thrice during the Panchayat era (1963-64‚ 1965-69‚ 1979-83) and twice during the multi-party democracy (1997-98 and 2003-04). Thapa became prime minister under three kings: served two terms as PM under king Mahendra‚ twice under king Birendra and the fifth time when king Gyanendra ascended to the throne after the royal massacre in 2001.

Thapa was inspired by the Indian independence movement when he was studying in Allahabad University. He started his political career with an ‘underground student movement’ in 1950‚ got elected to the assembly in 1958 and became Chairman of the Advisory Council. A year later‚ he was elected to the Upper House.

In 1960‚ he was appointed minister of agriculture‚ forest and industry under the newly-formed Panchayat system. In 1962‚ he served as member of National Legislature and minister of finance and economic affairs and was appointed chairman of the Council of Ministers and minister of finance‚ law and justice the following year.

Thapa was arrested when he marched for political reforms‚ including democratic changes in the constitution and restoration of rights to the people with democratic election in October 1972. He went on a three-week-long hunger strike in March 1974 for reforms in the political system.

After the 1990 movement‚ Thapa founded RPP and served as its president for many years. He contested and won elections several times from Dhankuta.

He was honoured with Nepal Shreepada‚ I Class‚ Tri Shakti Patta and Gorkha Dakshin Bahu. He was also honoured with Proud Past Alumni by Allahabad University Alumni Association.

Family sources said his body would be brought to Kathmandu tomorrow. He is survived by three daughters and a son.