Lone Koirala keeps family name alive in Nepal poll

April 14th, 2008 - 12:55 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 14 (IANS) Nepal’s Koirala dynasty, that gave the nation three prime ministers, and is likened to the Gandhis of India and the Bhuttos of Pakistan, is down in the crucial constituent assembly election but not entirely out. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s dream of perpetuating a dynasty received a blow with his daughter Sujata, who is also a minister without portfolio, his cousin and trusted aide Sushil Koirala and his nephew Shekhar Koirala, who had played an important role in negotiating with the Maoists, losing in the Terai plains - once the fortress of his Nepali Congress (NC) party. However, a dark horse Koirala shot past his adversaries against all odds.

But the historic constituent assembly election in Nepal marked the rise of Shashank Koirala, whose father Bishweshwor Prasad Koirala was the first elected prime minister of Nepal.

The 51-year-old eye surgeon, another nephew of Koirala, kept the family name alive after he won from Nawalparasi district in southwest Nepal.

Shashank, who had entered politics actively during the direct rule of King Gyanendra but was overtaken by his high-profile cousins Sujata and Shekhar, said he owed his victory to his legacy and the powerful influence wielded in the district by local NC leaders.

“Politics is in my blood,” the new entrant from the Koirala clan told IANS. “I had to join politics sometime and indeed, now is the right time since the NC is facing a huge problem now, we are in the minority and the party structure is in a shambles.”

His father B.P. Koirala had gained eminence almost six decades ago during a time of similar turmoil and upheaval when a pro-democracy movement clipped the absolute power of the then Rana prime ministers.

However, though his party helped the then fugitive king Tribhuvan return to his homeland from exile in India and B.P. headed the first elected government, Tribhuvan’s son Mahendra staged a coup, sacked the government and jailed the leader.

Shashank attributed the defeat of his party, once the biggest in parliament, to the desire for a change in the nation, the Maoist wave and the rise of ethnic parties in the Terai plains.

“The foundation of the party had been with the Terai people,” he said. “The new parties from the plains took away a huge chunk of support… However, though there is a lot of challenges now, there is also a lot of opportunities.”

Born in Patna city in India and educated in St Joseph’s School in Darjeeling, where Nepal’s royal family members also studied, the doctor who left a 22-year-old career in Kathmandu’s TU Hospital to take the plunge, ruled out being in line for premiership in future.

“My goal is to see a change in Nepal,” he said. “To see Nepal grow as a nation with a feeling of nationalism and pride.”

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