SURYA BAHADUR THAPA: Of All Seasons

From active monarchy to constitutional monarchy and currentrepublican setup, Surya Bahadur Thapa remained at the center of politics all the time until his death

May 1, 2015, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 08 No. -20 April 24- 2015 (Baishakh 11, 2072)

Just a month before his death in a gathering of former Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa’s like-minded friends, former Prime Minister Dr. Tulsi Giri reportedly suggested Thapa should take a lead role to end the present chaotic politics.

Dr. Giri’s argument was that having all out contacts with major political parties and as a leader of established national party, former Prime Minister Thapa could be a good candidate tolead the rebellion against the present chaos.

Former Prime Minister Dr. Tulsi Giri was right to some extent that the nation accepted Surya Bahadur Thapa in the contemporary politics. From extreme left to extreme right and center, late Thapa was an icon to reckon for all.

When he died at the age of 88, political leaders from all hues and colours issued statements praising his role in Nepali politics. To pay him respects, the government even declared a national holiday, giving him a state funeral.

Since he entered central level politics in 1961 with nomination at National Assembly by King Mahendra, former Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa never turned back and his rise to politics was astronomical.

One of the main political characteristics of Thapa was that he survived in the politics with all contradictions. He went to fasting, demanding the dissolution of Panchayat in 1968. However, he was regarded as a savior of Panchayat system when Panchayat was declared victorious in the national referendum in 1980.

Although former Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa remained a main factor blocking the entry of B.P. Koirala in politics, Nepali Congress even made him prime minister in the hung parliament of 1997.

His role with monarchs also saw ups and downs. He was appointed seven time prime minister by King and the last time by King Gyanendra in 2005. However, he stood firmly in favor of Republic when the proposal for declaring Nepal as a republic was put before the first Constituent Assembly. 

Although the political parties chanted slogans against King Gyanendra, late Thapa was treated as a savior of political process even after the declaration of republic.

As Machiavelli said there is no foe and friend in politics, Thapa followed the politics of pragmatism. Having maintained good relations with the Indian establishment, former Prime Minister Thapa changed the equation as per the need of the time. As he believed in real politick, he had been able to survive all ebbs of time.

Groomed by former Nepali Congress general secretary late Surya Prasad Upadhyaya, Surya Bahadur Thapa was the second Nepali politician to get an Indian Air Force plane to fly in the dead body from New Delhi to Kathmandu.

After completing his Master’s from India’s Allahabad University, Surya Bahadur Thapa chose to join the civil service. However, he ended up starting a political career. Interestingly, he remained at the center stage of politics over six decades.

Thapa had started political career by joining the National Congress led by Dr. Dilli Raman Regmi.He came to limelight in politics when he was nominated to National Assembly in 1961 by King Mahendra.

A boy from Muga village of Dhankuta district,he never came down in political stature since his first appointment to National Assembly. He was appointed as a finance minister at the first government led by Dr.Tulsi Giri following the dissolution of elected government led by B.P. Koirala.

As former Prime Minister Thapa died, Nepal would need to wait for a long time to fill the vacuumleft by his death in Nepali politics. Politicians with prudence like Thapa are few. As Machiavelli says, only politicians with prudence last for long. Former Prime Minister Thapa has shown that.

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