"I have great ambitions for my Country" - B. P. Koirala (Bhola Chatterji talks to Koirala about Nepal's political options, "weekly Sunday" Culcutta, March 18, 1979)
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B.P. Koirala, Napal's former Premier and rebel leader, is an unsparing critic of the present Nepali panchayat system of government, which, he says, is only a pretence of democracy. Bhola Chatterji talks to him about Nepal's political options.

BP, your statement yesterday that New Delhi should in its own interest support the Nepalese people's democratic case and that "if the Government of India does not support the cause, it will be failing in its duty" seems to have some teeth in it. What kind of support do you want or expect from the Government of India?

Koirala: Bhola, some Press correspondents wanted to know what the Government of India's attitude was towards democracy in Nepal. I told them that It would be failing in its duty to its own people if it did not support the cause of democracy in our country. Of course, it must be very clearly understood that when I say support it is moral support that I mean. I want that the Government of India should give moral support not only to Nepal; it should support the democratic cause all over the world.

This appears to run counter to your observation, following your meeting with King Birendra on October 30, 1978, that he was "more receptive and more liberal and more prepared to act according to the changing times."

Koirala: No, I don't think there is any contradiction between the statement I made immediately after my meeting with the King and my statement of yesterday. I want to emphasize that it is in the interest of India to be on the side of democracy in Nepal.

What is this conference that you are going to attend in Bonn? Are you going to the US for further surgery? Would you go back to Nepal after your return from the US?

Koirala: Primarily, I am going to the US for medical check-up. The doctors there will evaluate whether or not I need a third surgery. Because there is no proper equipment in Nepal to determine the nature of the damage to my artery, my doctor suggested that I must get the evaluation done by my doctors in the Bonn conference. You know, there is the North-South Commission whose objective is to bridge the economic gap between the developed and the developing nations. They are holding a conference in Bonn on that subject and I have been invited to attend it. Which I intend to do on my way to the US. And, of course, I would come back to Nepal because my place is among my own people. As a matter of fact, I leave Nepal most reluctantly, for health reasons. Otherwise, I would not have left Nepal.

What exactly did you talk about with King Birendra? What do you think might be the possible course of events in Nepal in the immediate future?

Koirala: I explained to the king the situation in Nepal according to my lights what I think the situation is in Nepal. I told him that the primary concern of all patriotic Nepalese is to bring about a national consensus. For that it is necessary to develop democratic institutions without which we can't bring about national unity. These are the two points that emphasized. And the third point that I emphasized was that development the king is very much interested in development in our context is also a political job. Without appropriate political instruments you cannot motivate the people. What is happening today is that the people are not properly motivated. Aid is pouring in from all over the world but there is no development. In fact, the development is 'minus' so to speak. Whatever development takes place is eaten up by the growth of population and the sum total is that it is a minus growth minus 0.75. So I told him that I give him credit for good intentions, for being very much development-minded. But if democratic institutions are not in traduced institutions in which people have a vested interest they won't be motivated for the task of development. The people should be involved in the process of policy-making as well as in the process of its implementation. This is what I told the King. And I found him this is my impression once again to be responsive. First of all, the atmosphere was very cordial; secondly, we were alone and there was nobody to interfere; thirdly, he agreed on many things that I said. I am not free to tell you what the king said. I am only free to tell you what I said. So, Bhola, you will understand my position. My impression is that the king is alert, he is aware of the country's problems, both economic and political. I feel that 1979 will be a crucial year for us, perhaps the democratic system might be introduced in 1979. As for what type of monarchy we want in Nepal, there are two points I would like to emphasize. I want that the king should take steps, the first towards liberalization, democratization of the administration. I know that he cannot at one go introduce full-fledged democracy, but he must take the first step towards it. I want the King to preside over a democratic system rather than the present system which is corrupt, anti-democratic and unprogressive. He is presiding over this system which is, I will again emphasize, corrupt. Anti-democratic, unprogressive and which is taking the country on to and the path of ruin. I want the King to preside over a democratic system with a virile nation which has a role to play in South Asia. Because I have great ambitions for my country. I want the King to preside over a nation which can play an effective role in this part of the world.

Do you visualize settlement with the Palace resulting in some form of representative government in Nepal?

Koirala: I am very hopeful that it may take place in1979. The kind of atmosphere that I found in the Palace, the kind of gesture the King has shown make me believe that the future is very bright so far as democracy is concerned. And again I would emphasize one thing there is no alternative to this, much as some people might talk about it. If we fail in bringing about a national consensus, which can be built up only on the basis of democratic institutions, the country would go to ruin. Unless we regenerate our nation through the democratic process, we have no future. When some of our Party men complain that the pace is very slow, I tell them that there is no alternative to this or to the mandate we have given ourselves that there must be national unity and national unity cannot be achieved in a vacuum. Which means that the people factor and the monarchy must combine that there must be total understanding between these two elements of national life. The alternative to this is ruin. That is what I feel and, therefore, I do not contemplate any alternative to this.

If what you say, that is reconciliation between the Palace and democratic forces does not take place, what do you propose to do?

Koirala: You see, Bhola, I am not a pessimist. If we have to exist as a nation, if we have some role to play in this part of the world, this is the line, there is no other line. So I don't have any alternative to the present line in my mind.

You do not propose even to think of any alternative?

Koirala: No, I don't. It is just unthinkable. For that would bring about disintegration of our country.

Rumour has it that there is a sharp difference of opinion between King Birendra and his brother Prince Gyanendra about the political situation in Nepal. Is there any truth in it? Do you think that King Birendra desires a settlement with the Nepali Congress, particularly with a view to strengthening his own position in his confrontation with Prince Gyanendra?

Koirala: I have absolutely no idea. So far as we are concerned we recognize only the King and nobody else. And it is the King who has to take the decision. I don't know what internal pressure is being exercised on him. We don't care about that he has to take the decision. He cannot take shelter; behind the plea that he is helpless we are not going to accept that.

Citation: B. P. Koirala, "I have great ambitions for my country", (Interview) in Sushil Koirala (ed.), Democracy Indispensable for Development 21-24, (Varanasi: Sandaju Publications, 1982)