Naturally, people have voiced strong opinions on their preferences for the world's newest republic's, first President. Some have expressed vested interests behind a democratic veil, others have spoken in support of gender and ethnic equality, and yet, others have forwarded names without extending even the simplest courtesy of consulting the very individuals on whose behalf, presidential campaigns have been launched (and retracted)!! With much respect to every individual's right to personal opinion, let this writing be a case for who SHOULD NOT become Nepal's first President - namely, Mr. Girija Prasad Koirala.
Many credit Mr. Koirala with leading Nepal's peace process, for bringing peace, stability and some measure of democracy to Nepal. They claim that in the absence of Girija's leadership, the Maoists would still be in insurgency mode, that Nepal would still be a Kingdom and that the Nepali people would remain deprived of their god given right to freedom.
But let us not forget that without Mr. Koirala, there probably would have been no Maoist insurgency to begin with. Let us take a moment to recollect that had Mr. Koirala and his old party given sustenance to inclusive democracy after 1990, operations Romeo and Sierra Kilo-II, the Lauda Air scandal and dozens of other episodes that undermined Nepal's democratic transition would never have transpired.
Instead of positioning this debate in the limited context of the past 2.5 years, let us take a moment to reflect on Mr. Koirala's larger legacy - a legacy which extends as far back as 1990 (after he stopped hijacking planes and printing fake Indian currency). It was during this timeframe when Girija's lust for power, recognition and political chicanery defined an entire generation of political malfeasance. Unmitigated corruption, intra-party power struggles and a penchant for manipulative, self-serving politics is the real legacy that Mr. Koirala will leave behind.
Koirala's supporters claim that he fought for democracy his entire life and so he deserves recognition in the "New Nepal." But does the "New Nepal" deserve a beginning marred by the political baggage that Girija Prasad Koirala would bring to the Presidency? Girija may have spent his teenage years following his older brother's lead, but the real question is what Girija did when his struggle yielded the opportunity democratize Nepal. If Mr. Koirala is such model for democratic leadership, is the type of democracy that defined the post-1990 period the type of democracy Nepalis want, post 2008?
A democratic myth is precisely what Mr. Koirala's sycophants like to propagate - that democracy for Nepal, is somehow tied to the legacy of the Nepali Congress and that the Nepali Congress, is nothing without Girija Prasad Koirala's leadership. What sophistry! If it's one man that has continually undermined democracy within Nepal's largest democratic party, it is Girija. The one (perhaps the only) thing Nepalis have Girija to thank for, is the birth of rebels within the ranks of the Nepali Congress. Rebels like Narahari Acharya and Gagan Thapa who have successfully leveraged republican sentiment to undermine Girija Koirala and his coterie.
What of the new generation of leaders within the Nepali Congress? What about the new generation of Nepalis, period? How enthusiastic are they about the thought of Koirala's legacy extending far beyond its useful tenure?
What about the thousands of Maoists and the thousands of state security forces who died during Nepal's insurgency? Is it their desire to see the man who resigned as prime minister because the Army wouldn't fight the Maoists, now serve as the "New Nepal's" first President? Is the attempted re-writing of Girija's legacy and the continuation of his brand of caste-based politics, the reason so many Nepalis had to die? It's horrible enough that Nepalis had to suffer immeasurable emotional loss fighting a war that could have been avoided. Must Nepalis now bear insult to injury by witnessing Girija become Nepal's first President?
Nepal's Presidency isn't a consolation prize for second best. It's not a trophy that Girija deserves for being the "most useful idiot." This is a post that will be burdened with immense responsibility and compromise, a position that a capable, healthy, non-senile, non-octogenarian should hold. Nepal's new President will reside over not just the most politically challenging period in Nepal's history, but possibly over the most economically challenging period the world has seen in decades. Given all practical considerations, is Nepal's Presidency a job for a man who can barely stand, let alone think straight? Is it a job for a man pumped up on steroids just to make occasional public appearances?
With Nepal's royal legacy in the past, Girija Koirala's utility is over. Like the man formerly known as King Gyanendra, Girija should gracefully bow out of the political scene as the man formerly known as "most useful idiot." From winning the Nobel Peace Prize to becoming Nepal's first President, one cannot help but wonder what other dreams of grandeur, interactions with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, planted in Girija's head. Be that as it may, it's time for Girija to wake up, smell the republican coffee, get off the steroids, and let the "New Nepal" breathe.
There is no room in the "New Nepal" for an old Girija, the politics of his variety, or his shameless lust for power. Democracy is facilitated in Nepal by Girija's retirement into obscurity and a democratic polity is more likely in the absence of Nepali Congress supporters, who are little more than Girija's servants. It is Girija who continues to impede Nepal's political progress and it's time for him to get out of the way.
The Nepali Congress should Focus on the Party's Reinvention, not on Koirala's Legacy
Stubborn Koirala and NC's Impending Downfall
(Nepali) Congress At Crossroads
High On Oxygen