Former prime minister and the only reaming founding leader of Nepali Congress (NC) Krishana Prasad Bhattarai, passed away on Friday night (March 4, 2011) at the age of 87 Norvic International Hospital where he was receiving treatment. I was fortunate enough to see him the same day at 11.45 am when he was still breathing. His last rites were performed on Sunday with full state honour at Pashupati Aryaghat. One - month- old Nepal government led by J.N. Khanal and NC paid tribute to the saint leader in a befitting manner. In addition to thousands of NC leaders and cadres, political leaders and workers belonging to other parties and commoners thronged Dasrath Stadiuma and the cremation site at Pashupati to have a last glimpse and pay tribute to the leader who lived a stainless life. Breaching established protocol norms, president Ram Baran Yadav went to the stadium to pay his tribute to Kishunji who was also the speaker of the first elected parliament in Nepal.
Listening to Kishunji’s observations and going through his recently published book, one can gather that he immensely respected late B.P. Koirala and Ganesh Man Singh as his true leaders. These two legends in turn it seems, had too much confidence in Kishunji’s sincerity, integrity, wisdom and love for the party and the nation. B.P.s selections of his as the officiating president of NC is a clear manifestation of the immense confidence the legend had in K.P. Bhattarai. In very trying and difficult circumstances during autocratic panchayat system, he kept the party active and alive. Struggling from within the country, he carried out with full sincerity and honesty the responsibility that he was charged with by his leader late B.P. Koirala. It was during his tenure of 25 years as officiating president of NC, partyless panchayat was abolished and multi- party system was rehabilitated in Nepal. B.P was no more with us to see the historic day but another leader Ganesh Man Singh, who had captained the 1990 movement against the autocratic system, was still up and around. The polities of sacrifice and non-violence that K.P Bhattarai adhered to strictly emerged victorious at the end. That Ganesh Man Ji declined the post of prime ministership offered to him by then king Birendra and requested the monarch to appoint Bhattarai as prime minister is one more glaring example of faith and trust that the leader had in Kishunji’s ability, honesty, sincerity and skill. To the immense satisfaction of his leader and Nepalese at large, he completed the twin task of preparing a democratic, constitution and holding fair and free parliamentary elections. Notwithstanding his own electoral debacle, he measured up to the expectation of his leaders and the people. He did not fail his two beloved leaders, B.P and G.M Singh, and the nation.
Kishun Ji was made prime minister one more time in 1999/2000 for a brief period of 10 months. Election that time was fought and won in his name in that no other than G.P Koirala himself had stated in several electoral gatherings that the next prime minister would be K.P Bhattarai. He got the post but could not pay attention to the serious problems of the nations as a strong section of his party was hell bent on dislodging his government at the earliest possible moment. It was about 2/3 days before he resigned, I went to his official residence in Baluwatar wondering if I could get to see him as I was expecting him to be busy seeing MPs and chalking out ways and means to save the government. Contrary to my expectation and utter surprise. I could not see one MP in the premises of Balauwatar. When I expressed my feeling about the wide gap between my expectation and realization to KishunJi in such a turbulent period, he smiled and waved his right and thrice in the air, clearly suggesting he had no intention of sticking to power taking resort to unfair means. I was treated to a nice snack of bara and pickkle before I left the place. When I expressed my astonishment to his personally and politically close people the next day, they told me that he had declined the offer of some notable ministers in his cabinet to save the government at any cost. This piece of information was one more addition to my list of surprises emanating from KishunJi’s action/inaction that time. He made a brief but historic speech in the parliament before proceeding to then Royal Palace to submit his resignation. Expectedly, G. P. Koirala took over as the next prime minister. The great leader had no lust for power and did not believe in politics of money and muscle.
Despite having suffered a lot during the Panchayat regime when then Royal Palace was running the show, he never had any ill feeling towards the institution of monarchy. He wanted to empower the people which he knew could be effected only through shedding of power by the King. His observations and actions were always in that direction, which many times were misconstrued by then royalties as something meant to abolish the institution of monarchy. Not understanding that only constitutional monarchy could survive in the long run, those in favour of a powerful palace always blamed him for taking away power from the palace to the people through the much adored constitution of 1992.He never wanted monarchy to be abolished, which was perfectly in line with the ideal and established principle of NC that had B.P and Ganesh Man as its mentor at different periods of time. He had the moral authority to speak in favour of monarchy when the entire nation, it seemed, was rising against the institution. His own party NC opted for the republican system of governance but Bhattarai wanted some form of monarchy to remain. Behind this softness for monarchy was his dream to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Nepal, which could be possible only if all major forces in the country joined hands to do so. He was not a monarchist in the conventional sense of it. Leaders have been very generous in paying tribute to late K.P.Bhattarai, but let it not remain a ritual this time because there is a severe drought of value-based politics in Nepal today. Looking at the astounding material well being of dozens of politicians belonging to different parties in the last couple of years, many of us are tempted to conclude that politics is the vehicle that can reach one to the peak of prosperity in the shortest period of time. Shall we therefore begin to search our soul and try to walk the path of integrity, austerity, nationality and forgiveness created by KishunJi? A mere determination to do so would be the true tribute to the great leader who practiced value-based politics while alive.