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What’s the Paush 1st: Points to Ponder Fuss?

The late Surya Prasad Upadhyay, in an interview when the referendum was in full swing had claimed that he headed the Kathmandu branch of the Nepali Congress while the Benaras branch was founded by Krishna Praad Bhattarai, Gopal Prasad Bhattarai, Biswesor Prasad Koirala and Matrika Prasad Koirala just as the Calcutta branch was founded by Subarna Shumsher, Mahabir Shumsher and Mahendra Bikram Shah. It wasn’t for nothing perhaps that the late B.P.’s posthumous autobiography published by his ardent follower and relation, senior advocate Genesh Raj Sharma, saw B.P. pour special ire on Surya Prasad who was co-opted for Home Minister in his cabinet nevertheless despite his loss in the 1959 polls from two constituencies. There are people around still who claim that the B.P. faction scuttled Upadhyay’s electoral chances and as proof they refer to the booth votes of Dumja, the Koirala’s home village. Charges of such in- house scuttling resurfaced at the K.P. Bhattarai defeat under the elections he conducted after the restoration of the multi-party system. Bhattarai himself had lost the 1959 polls only to be appointed by the king as the only nominated speaker of the elected 1959 house. Upadhyay, on the other hand, in the post 1990 period, found no space or mention in Congress political literature although he, as contributors in a book published by his lone daughter some years back, virtually helped nurture and preserve the democratic camp within the country which, as distinct from those activists launching movements from across the border, were known to have been very influential in keeping the flame at home. This needs mention here at this time when generations are amidst introspection at sifting the myths from the facts of Nepali politics since there is now a nation-wide consensus that the period between the 1960s and the 1990s were the most productive years in the country and the period after sees a continual slide in the country all-round.
Come Sunday this week and a group of ardent followers and admirers will gather before the late king Mahendra’s statue to observe Paush 1st, the Nepali date when he introduced the partyless panchayat system. The ‘dark days’ are alleged to have been augured in by the late king propelled by his ‘undemocratic’ ambitions with the help of the army. A much more deep scrutiny at the participants who helped implement the Mahendra change should set the mind rolling. Matrika Koirala, B.P.’s elder brother and ‘dictator’ of the 1950 democratic revolution championed the king as ambassador to the United states despite his unparalleled status in Nepali history as the first people’s prime minister after the 1950 change. K.P. Bhattarais’ elder brother Gopal Prasad became editor of the government mouthpiece Gorkhapatra under the Mahendra dispensation. In fact participation of the Nepali Congress grass roots is deemed remarkable after the change since the Congress held virtual monopoly of political organization after the change in 1950. A dispassionate account of how fissures in the Nepali Congress were dealt wih under the B.P. and,later G.P. leadership of the Nepali Congress may be gleaned from how, upon differences with the leadership, Sher Bahdur Deuba’s faction was branded ‘Royal Congress’ until he reneged to rejoin Koirala and, ultimately overthrew Nepali Royalty. Indeed, more, may be found in the ultimate sidelining of Ganeshman Singh and K,P, Bhattarai, the latter known to have been prevented by the party from being appointed prime minister by the king in course of correcting the political impasse in parliament which the king ultimately had had to chair in the process of fulfilling his constitutional duties as protector of the 1990 constitution. When the chaff is sifted, Paush 1st, and the performance it triggered means much more than the mere political ambitions of the traditional king partnered by B,P, insiders such as Tulsi Giri and Viswabandhu Thapa. For the actual reasons of such cooperation he received one must delve into where the personal ambitions of our politicians threatened to impact a democratic constitution as it did in the last decade of the twentieth century. The clue to Panchayat performance lies in the manner and personalities it recruited for political participation which in succeeding years after Mahendra’s death found gradual dilution and dearth in the Panchatyat System.

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