Girija Prasad Koirala – A leader with a healing touch



Kathmandu: Veteran Nepali Congress leader Girija Prasad Koirala was a politician of the mould of Indira Gandhi who in his career spanning six-decades outwitted many opponents ranging from monarchs to guerrilla-turned politicians.

A strong votary of maintaining close ties with India, Koirala saw it all -- from his struggle as a trade union leader to don the mantle of prime ministership, to confront Nepal's monarchs.

But the 85-year-old could not fulfil his secret dream of making his daughter Sujata Koirala Nepal's first woman prime minister though he brought her to a sniffing distance.

His death came at a critical time for his Himalayan homeland which is at a crossroads to frame a new roadmap to democracy.

Towards the end of his chequered career, Koirala was making a fervent bid to upstage firebrand Maoist leader Prachanda.

But the high mark of his career was to broker the peace deal that ended Nepal's decade-long civil war. Koirala was president of the Nepali Congress party and spearheaded the mass demonstrations in 2006 that forced then King Gyanendra to give up his authoritarian rule, reinstate parliament and appoint Koirala as interim prime minister.

But soon after that Koirala stripped Gyanendra of all his powers and command of the Army, a move that was vehemently resisted by the king.

Gyanendra was finally dethroned, bringing an end to the 240-year-old monarchy in May 2008. Soon after that, Koirala quit as prime minister to allow a new coalition government led by former Maoist rebels to take power.

PTI