KATHMANDU: If there was ever a modern politician in Nepal who epitomised classical notions of a politician, it was Girija Prasad Koirala.
In his lecture, Politics as Vocation, political theorist Max Weber said a true politician is motivated by an inner calling and is able to unite the ethic of responsibility with an ethic of ultimate ends. “Only he has the calling for politics who is sure that he shall not crumble when the world from his point of view is too stupid or too base for what he wants to offer,” Weber said. “Only he who in the face of all this can say ‘In spite of all!’ has the calling for politics.” It was Koirala, who was able to take bold decisions and push them through. Without his consent the 2005 12-point deal with the Maoists would have been impossible, nor would Nepal have become a republic.
He also embodied the political maxim that without power, a politician is but dead. He revealed this mantra to his close friends, and it was his devotion to this principle, and not his insensitivity, that drove him to hold on to power and weaken competition.
During and after the 1990 movement, he emerged from the shadows of Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Ganesh Man Singh to take control of the party. His no nonsense politics, left little room for Singh and Bhattarai in the party. His move was to have deep repercussions throughout the rest of his career, and he never really got a second chance to put things right after the NC’s defeat in the 1994 parliamentary elections.
He had a deep devotion to Nepal’s development, and the euphoria was apparent during his first stint as Prime Minister from 1991 to 1994 . Unfortunately his determination was limited by a shortage of financial resources, the shortsighted oppositional politics practiced by the UML and the internal differences within the NC. His resignation as PM in July 2001, when he was unable to mobilise the Nepali Army against growing Maoist onslaught, became a measure of his limitations, and a test of existing power balance in the Nepali society.
Yet, he was perhaps the only politician in Nepal who could yield authority and respect without the backing of the state machinery, and it was with this devotion to political power, completion of the peace process and stabilisation of democracy that he lived until his last day.