Early in 2000, a prestigious Indian magazine came out with a cover story on the ISI game plan in Nepal. Based on an ‘Intelligence Report’ , it produced a list of Nepalese leaders with ‘ISI links’ and Sushil Koirala’s name figured on it.
However, the man lived such a simple life with a fixed routine and contacts, most people — even those who opposed him politically– considered the allegation a part of Indian propaganda to defame the public figure. It should be recalled that Sushil Koirala was and always remained the most trusted aide of G P Koirala who was called a ` legendary statesman of South Asia’ in 2006 by India’s Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh .
Sushil Koirala spent nearly 11 years in India in exile from 1968 and always had close links with Indian politicians, mainly the socialists. Thus he was hurt for ‘being misunderstood’ by India. A poor communicator, he shared this agony, only with very few members of his inner circle.
Narendra Modi heaped praise on Koirala for his ‘simplicity and value based politics’ but he was one of the two from more than a dozen prime ministers of Nepal, who was ignored by India and did not make an official trip to Delhi between 1990 and 2015.
Koirala, a self-educated man, joined politics in the early 50s. He became personal assistant to Tulsi Giri, a prominent Nepali Congress leader and a junior minister in Nepal’s first ever elected cabinet led by B P Koirala (1958 May to Dec 1960).
Soon he dissociated himself with Giri as he defected to King Mahendra who had dismissed the elected cabinet, Parliament and appropriated direct power. Koirala was subsequently arrested and after six years in jail, went to India along with B P Koirala and other NC leaders in exile.
In 1976, when B P Koirala and others returned to Nepal with a call for national reconciliation which envisaged the King and the Nepali Congress working together for a credible democratic process, Sushil Koirala and few other leaders remained in India as they were facing cases for hijacking a Nepal Airlines plane and ‘robbing’ four million rupees it was carrying (June 1975), ostensibly to buy arms for an armed revolution to establish democracy.
He returned home once the case was withdrawn and politics had become a bit more liberal in Nepal.
With the advent of democracy and the end of the King’s direct rule in 1990, Koirala became one of the key political figures in the new set-up, an influential member of G P Koirala’s kitchen cabinet when he took over as PM in May 1991.
In 2002, Sushil Koirala lost a bid for the PM’s post to Sher Bahadur Deuba but was appointed to the post 12 years later when Nepal elected its second constituent assembly to draft the Constitution.
It was under his leadership that the House delivered the Constitution, something that triggered protest in Tarai and the subsequent blockade of Raxaul-Birguj border. Most political parties hailed him for the feat that ended political transition. However, that was the beginning of Koirala’s downfall in the public’s esteem as he breached his public pledge to quit the post once the constitution was delivered.
He contested once again but lost to KP Oli. At the time of his death at 78, Koirala was preparing to retain the post of president of the Nepali Congress during the next general assembly a fortnight from now-despite suffering from cancer and a respiratory disorder and advanced age.