Colossal Social Reformer: The Architect of Nepalese Democracy Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala

Nepal celebrates the 106th birth anniversary of its democratic legend, a national leader, and the architect of modern-day democracy.  Few would miss his name recorded in history as one of the finest personalities and a champion of social reform and justice for the oppressed. B.P. Koirala was a man of principle, his character was undaunted and a visionary that would break the shackles of the Nepalese society leading them into an era of social and political reform. While we look back into his life, it is fitting that at this day we delve deeper into his life for the person he was, the idealism he shared and what made him serve the country in entirety till his very end. Not only was he the founder of the Nepali Congress party but as a literary figure, he brought a moralistic standard and highlighted the problems faced by the Nepalese society during his time.

His life is a lesson which can be taken as a great source of inspiration for all generations alike. Not only did he excel in leadership, but he was also actively involved in literature, promoting arts, and culture and believed in reforming the society in which everyone was equitable. Few like him have come and tread our land that would speak in favor of the downtrodden. B.P. Koirala never shied in speaking of the condition of the people, those that to a large extent were living a life of extreme poverty. As one of the most charismatic personalities of modern Nepalese history, B.P. Koirala was compassionate towards the plight of the people. He understood the need to help those in need and would easily acquaint himself with the general masses.

The second child of Krishna Prasad Koirala, Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala was brought up in the city of Benaras now known as Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh India. He was educated in Scottish Church College in Calcutta and received a degree in Economics and Politics from India’s premier Banaras Hindu University. He then went on to pursue law and received a degree from the University of Calcutta. He practiced law for several years in the hill station of Darjeeling in West Bengal. With such an academic credential he was always involved in writing voluminous texts speaking about society and the problems inherent wherein he proposed many reforms for the betterment of people irrespective of the places he lived.

B.P. Koirala right from his youth played an active role in changing the circumstances of his life and the people around him. He was severely reprimanded and incarcerated several times in his life. As a student, B.P. Koirala was active in supporting the cause of the Indian Nationalist movement. A staunch supporter of Gandhian principle he began his political journey by joining the Indian National Congress. He was incarcerated immediately for two years during the British rule in India. With this experience, he wanted to serve his motherland which at that point the autocratic Rana regime was the most powerful, while the larger masses were subjected to extremely poor standards of living, and were unable to provide for even with basic necessities. B.P Koirala realized that by bringing in political reforms he would be able to change the dynamics of the condition of the Nepalese people. He founded the Nepali Congress Party initially known as the Socialist Nepali National Congress.

His first campaign toward visible political reform can be seen through his support for the Biratnagar Jute Mill strike, where his younger brother Girija Prasad Koirala was a worker and the organizer. This movement spread to be a national one that would go against the Rana regime. The worker’s conditions were remorseful with little or no base for access to a decent living. B.P. Koirala was arrested again, and this time it was only after the request of India’s Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi that he was released from custody in the year 1947.

This was just a beginning of the long road to his active political career shaping the designs of a permanent democratic and principled approach in his personal decisions. He was responsible for the overthrow of Nepal’s 104-year-old Rana regime. His first stint as Home Minister followed straight after in the new cabinet under the first Rana-Congress coalition. He furthered his political will by playing an active role enabling Nepal to have its first democratically elected head through free parliamentary elections in which the Nepali Congress under his able guidance and leadership managed to win by an extremely huge margin. He was then the first Prime Minister of a democratic Nepal, few would have thought of such a change during their lifetime.

He balanced foreign relations through his experience and expertise keeping equidistance between India and China while both were keen on adequately satisfied with his charismatic and principled leadership. This stint did not last long while many aristocrats were offended with his socialist politics and principles, King Mahendra sacked the newly founded system and imposed direct rule. B.P. Koirala then went back to Varanasi where he spent over a decade deeply involved in his literary work which he had a profound inclination and a natural endowment.

B.P. Koirala had a prolific literary career. His books are widely read even today. He had a natural flow towards depicting the life that resonated with the working class, and those that were subjected to poverty. His writing although fictional portrays social life in its truest form where the characters depicted the current situation of its times and the everyday struggle and hardships that were faced. B.P. Koirala loved to write, it was this habit that kept him going even through incarceration where he spent most of his time under watchful eyes of the administration.

He never faltered and utilized his energy toward his literary skills. Out of his numerous publications, the following are the most sought after, Teen Ghumti ( Three Turns), Sumnima ( A story of a Kirati Woman), Mero Katha ( My Story his autobiography), Doshi Chasma ( Guilty Spectacles) and Hitler ra Yahudi ( Hitler and the Jews). His literary work speaks volumes regarding his thought process and character that was substantial in affecting the course of Nepal’s political and social history.

Historically rare, personalities like B.P.Koirala are once in a lifetime event which indeed needs celebration and reflection. Few individuals in society can endure a life filled with the struggle for the greater cause of the nation and its people. He is rightfully known as ” Jana Nayak”  or ” the leader of the masses” , who propagated change for the most vulnerable and downtrodden people of the society.

His charisma and oratory skills have won people over, and since then he has known to be one of the prime personalities in modern-day Nepalese history. There is a lot to learn from his personal life. Very few individuals are successful while serving for the larger cause of the development of masses. People give up, he didn’t, irrespective of all the challenges that came his way, B.P. Koirala came out stronger, wiser with vibrancy sticking to his stance which he readily professed. We celebrate his life today, for the dignity he brought to the working class, for his thoughts that shaped and reengineered the political consciousness of the Nepalese people.

Concluding with his most profound saying which reveals a lot about this affectionate leader, he said ” whenever there is any developmental agenda or proposal in mind, always make sure to think of the common man, his plough and the hut that he lives in, and ask yourself how beneficial the proposed plan of action is going to be for the common man”.  Artistic, literate, with a thought for helping the masses, very few leaders will match up to his stature in modern-day Nepalese history, and while we honor him today, let us not forget the idealism he shared, his dream for the nation and the reforms he truly wanted to see in the society. While celebrating his life of varied accomplishments let us reflect on his principle that made him the person who he truly was and implement certain aspects within our personal lives to make a change for the better for our nation. Men come and go, but legends will have their tales recorded for infinity for the service and sacrifice rendered for the people and nation.

(Commemoration is written by Birat Krishna Thapa for Nepali Reporter)