Last hurrah for Koiralas in Nepal?

Another Koirala is at the helm of affairs in Nepal after a gap of five and half years. Sushil Koirala’s election to the prime minister’s post comes after the last Koirala—Girija Prasad—left office in August 2008.

He becomes the fourth member of Nepal’s foremost political family and the first one other than the three brothers—-Matrika Prasad, Bishweshwar Prasad and Girija Prasad— to reach the post.

Nepal’s democratic journey over the past half century has been closely linked with the Koirala family. Matrika Prasad was Nepal’s first commoner to become prime minister—after end of the hereditary Rana hold over the post for close to a century—in 1951. He held the post one more time.

Matrika Prasad was also the first president of Nepali Congress, which was formed in 1950 in Calcutta following merger of Nepali National Congress and Nepal Democratic Congress, and played a crucial role along with his brothers for establishment of democracy in Nepal.

His brother Bishweshwar was the second one from the family to become prime minister. Bishweshwar ruled for a period of 19 months from May 1959 to December 1960.

The youngest of the five Koirala brothers—Girija Prasad—become prime minister for the first time in 1991. He held the post for four more terms handing charge to Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda in August 2008.

Till Girija Prasad’s death in 2010, he was the most influential player in Nepal politics and the most widely recognized outside. But since his demise, the Koirala family has gradually lost its prominent place both within Nepali Congress and in Nepali politics.

Absence of capable leaders to carry forward the Koirala legacy, emergence of several new power centres within the party and establishment of Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda as the central figure in Nepali politics are some reasons for this.

Though Sushil Koirala, who is the present Nepali Congress president, was elected unopposed to the prime minister’s post, he didn’t have an easy ride till Monday’s election.

His leadership of the party has constantly been questioned by Sher Bahadur Deuba, a senior colleague who has been prime minister thrice. Koirala managed to defeat Deuba by a slender margin to be elected as the party’s parliamentary party leader.

Seen as an honest politician, the 74-year-old bachelor isn’t a mass leader who possesses the charisma needed to unite the party and take other parties along to complete the task of formulating the new constitution within the self-imposed deadline of one year.

Koirala could face difficulty in holding on to his post. But what could be more worrying for the family is that there’s no one from the clan to occupy the vacuum once Sushil Koirala leaves both posts—-the prime minister as well as president of Nepali Congress.

Unlike similar families in South Asia—-Nehru-Gandhi in India and the Bhutto in Pakistan—-who have successfully passed the family baton from one generation to the next—there are no second or third generation Koiralas within Nepali Congress who have the dynamism and clout to control reins of the party like the elders from the family did.

Girija Prasad tried to promote his daughter Sujata towards the fag end of his political career. She held the dual posts of Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in two governments formed after the 2008 election.

But her performance in both capacities didn’t give the impression of someone who is an able administrator and politician. The other members of the Koirala family who are still active in Nepali Congress don’t seem to have what it takes to assume control once Sushil Koirala leaves.

It may take Bollywood actress Manisha Koirala, who is granddaughter of Bishweshwar Prasad, and who enjoys lot of goodwill within Nepal to revive political fortunes of the Koirala family in coming years.

Since she has decided to stay away from active politics till date, Sushil Koirala’s election to the prime minister’s post could be the last hurrah for the Koirala family in Nepal politics.

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