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Ganeshman Singh: Father Of Democracy In Nepal

Issue 46, November 15, 2009

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

Ganeshman Singh is synonymous with revolution and democracy in Nepal. So, it will not be overstatement to call him the father of democracy. He has dedicated his whole life to fight against the despotic rulers and has sacrificed his luxurious life for the benefits of the Nepalis. His life has been the story of bravely fighting against the despotic rulers. He escaped from the prison and put his life at risk in traveling to India. Ultimately, he became one of the main public figures of the 1951-revolution to topple the apparently mighty rule of the Rana family. Again, he spent seven years in prison after the despotic ruler called Mahendra took over the power from the elected government in 1960. Finally, in 1990, he successfully ousted the Panchayat system imposed by Mahendra in 1962, and became the undisputed leader of Nepalis.

Ganeshman Singh was the member of the family that had served the then autocratic family rulers called Ranas. He could have a comfortable life following the family tradition of serving the Rana rulers but he did not follow the footprints of his father and uncles rather took the hard path of breaking the unbreakable setup of the Ranas. He rejected the tradition of welcoming the Ranas throwing one-rupee silver coin at their feet when they attended his wedding ceremony.

He initiated his political life being the member of the underground party called ‘Praja Parishad’ in other words People’s Council. Then, he became the member of ‘Nepali National Congress’ set up by some Nepalese students in Benares, India. At the same time, some rebellious Ranas living in Calcutta, India set up ‘Nepal Democratic Party’. Later, these two political parties merged into a single party called Nepali Congress with the flag of four stars on the white background flanked by two parallel red borders of equal width. Ganeshman Singh has worked under this flag throughout his life until he needed to quit under the undesirable circumstances created by the unprincipled leaders of the Nepali Congress (NC).

He climbed out of the jail wall and escaped to India. He had practiced the method of climbing out of the jail compound walls working with a colleague at night several times. Finally, he decided to escape from the jail and successfully climbed out of the jail walls putting his life at risk until he crossed the Nepal-India border. His party leaders sent him in another mission to Nepal putting his life at risk. However, he took the mission and came back to Nepal only to get arrested and landed in jail again.

He was against stopping the armed rebellion and against NC leaders participating in the talks held in New Delhi, India between the Ranas and the then king for negotiating the political settlement in Nepal in 1951. He also opposed an interim government under the Rana Prime Minister. However, the leaders working from the Indian soil participated in the talks and agreed on sharing the power among the NC leaders, the king and the Ranas. Consequently, they formed a new government with the representation of all three parties.

Ganeshman Singh got the hero’s welcome from the people of the Kathmandu Valley when he walked out of the jail victorious after the end of the autocratic Rana and formation of a new government of three parties. He also became one of the members of the Council of Minister headed by Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher Rana but this government did not last long. After nine months, Mohan resigned and Matrika Prasad Koirala took over the rein.

The then king did not keep his commitment made to the people of Nepal to hold elections for a Constituent Assembly and write a constitution of Nepal for running the country democratically; so, Ganeshman Singh and NC leaders needed to launch another movement for forcing the then king to provide Nepalis with a constitution and hold elections for a parliament in mid 1950s. However, under the pressure of the political colleagues, Ganeshman Singh as always had to agree on the constitution given by the king rather than writing a people’s constitution.

Ganeshman Singh won the election for the seat of parliament at the prestigious constituency in Kathmandu defeating the founder of the Communist Party of Nepal Pushpa Lal Shrestha in 1959. Then, he became one of the Ministers of the government formed by the NC leaders after winning two-third majority in the parliament. The NC leaders could not properly use the strength of two-third majority for institutionalizing the democracy rather put it at risk letting the corruption flourish in the administration. Once, Ganeshman Singh went to complain about a corruption to the then Prime Minister BP Koirala but Koirala accepted it keeping quiet.

The result was the then king took over the power from the elected government of the NC and put Ganeshman Singh and BP Koirala at the Sundari jail in Kathmandu in 1960. Ganeshman Singh spent seven years in jail before BP Koirala and he were released. Through a foreign diplomat, the king attempted to woo them to support his regime. However, they stood firm on their stance on democracy and did not give in to the king.

Ganeshman Singh and BP Koirala went to India for self exile until the then Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi sent them back home. They came back home in the name of reconciliation with the then regime called Panchayat. For all practical purposes they could not reconcile with the then corrupt Panchayat: the no-party system of governance.

In 1979 the Nepalese students rose against the Panchayat regime. Some Nepalese students wanted to submit a memorandum to the embassy of Pakistan in Kathmandu in protest against the hanging of former Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The Police stopped them at the crossroads near Lainchaur.  Students did not keep quiet but intensified their protest that later became the students’ uprising and forced the then king to announce referendum on the choice between the improved Panchayat system and a multi-party system of governance for quelling the students’ uprising.

The then government held a referendum in 1980. The election commission under the influence of the government took several months to bring the ballot boxes from the election booths to the district headquarters for counting votes. The government printed millions of additional ballot papers at the government printing press and stuffed those ballot papers in the ballot boxes indiscriminately.

Ganeshman Singh under the pressure of other NC leaders did not speak out for counting votes immediately after voting and did not stop the government officials stuffing the illegal ballot papers in the ballot boxes. The result was the improved Panchayat system marginally won the referendum on the contrary of the reality of possible overwhelming victory for a multi-party system in 1981.

Ganeshman Singh needed to wait for another decade for tearing down the corrupt walls of the Panchayat regime. After the death of BP Koirala, Ganeshman Singh became the major role-playing leader in the NC. He persuaded the communist leaders to form a united front for the NC and the united front jointly fighting against the corrupt Panchayat regime.

Both the NC and the United Front of the left parties announced Ganeshman Singh a common leader and declared him the Supreme Leader of the people’s movement of 1990. His words became the final decision of the joint front of the NC and the United Left Front.

The joint front took only 49 days to topple the Panchayat regime. The then king surrendered the power to the people’s representatives. The king offered the position of the Prime Minister to Ganeshman Singh but he stopped the king from doing such thing saying the king did not enjoy such power any more, only the people’s representatives have such rights. As the representative of the Nepalese people, Ganeshman Singh put forward Krishna Prasad Koirala for the position of the Prime Minister of the interim government.

Ganeshman Singh’s life did not move forward smoothly even after the defeat of the Panchayat, he had to struggle against the corrupt leaders of his own party and ultimately had to leave the party to keep himself away from the dirty power politics. So, his life has been the perpetual struggle for democracy, good governance and clean administration. Invariably Ganeshman Singh is the father of democracy.

November 12, 2009.

Note: This article is in commemoration of November 10, 2009: the day of Ganeshman Singh, his 94th birth anniversary. Democracy-loving Nepalis celebrate this day of Ganeshman Singh jubilantly.

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