In Memory

 Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala (Nepaliविश्वेश्वरप्रसाद 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 exileand in steadily deteriorating health.

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.

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 Gandhiin August 1947.

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 Congressscored 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.