By Vidhyapati Mishra / Rajendra Pokhrel
Born as the youngest son to father Sangkata Prasad and mother Lalita Devi in the Indian city of Banaras in 1924, Nepali Congress (NC) founding member Krishna Prasad Bhattarai breathed

Also read :
Goodbye Kishunji…(, March 5, 2011)his last at the Norvic Hospital, Kathmandu, at 11:26 Friday night. He was 87.

The veteran pro-democracy leader was undergoing treatment at the hospital for respiratory complications and liver failure since last three weeks.

Raised and educated in Banaras, Bhattarai started his political career by joining the student politics at the Banaras Hindu University to fight against the British rule in India.

Bhattarai was elected to the post of general secretary of the All India Nepali National Congress led by Devi Prasad Saptoka in 1949. When this party merged with the Nepal Prajantantra Congress to form the Nepali Congress, he was elected as assistant general secretary of the new party in 1952.

During his youth, Bhattarai was a journalist. The Federation of Nepali Journalists was established in 1956 as ‘Nepal Journalist Association’ with Bhattarai as founder president. By then, he was the editor of Nepal Pukar Weekly. As a journalist, he shall also be remembered for one of the most rare interviews with the general secretary of the Communist Party of Russia, Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev.

In 1959, at a young age of 36, he availed an opportunity to serve the lower house of the parliament. Following a coup by late king Mahendra dismissing the first elected government in 1960, he was jailed for eight years along with Girija Prasad Koirala and was kept inside Sundarijal military detention camp. Altogether, he spent 14 years in jail during various periods of his long political career.

Bhattarai, who is better remembered as a “lifetime bachelor” in Nepali politics, got a chance to serve as the Prime Minister of Nepal (from April 1990 to May 1991 ) when he headed the interim government following the restoration of democracy in 1990. He was re-elected to the top executive post on May 31, 1999 and served till March 22, 2000.

His admirers fondly address Bhattarai as Kishunji. He played a significant role as the interim prime minister since the previous constitution (1990) was promulgated during his official tenure.

Serving the Nepali Congress as officiating president for over 25 years, Bhattarai was elected as president in 1992 and remained in the position until 1996.

As a founding member of NC, Bhattarai played crucial roles in various instances of Nepal’s history — be it the struggle against the 104-year-rule of the Ranas, or the events occurring after that.

In 1950, Bhattarai even led an armed group in Gorkha which was formed by the Nepali Congress with the support from the then king Tribhuvan from exile to overthrow the brutal Rana regime.

Many NC leaders say that Bhattarai developed a bitter rivalry with late GP Koirala throughout his political life, which was why he was more tilted towards the party faction led by Sher Bahadur Deuba. In September 2007, Bhattarai declared that his relationship with the Nepali Congress was broken forever, saying he didn’t like the party opting republican system of governance in its bylaws.

Bhattarai also received serious criticism from his party leaders for issuing statements supporting monarchy, and standing against the republican set up in the country. He was also criticized for giving such irrelevant and controversial statements against the party.

His death, undoubtedly, ends an era in the Nepali politics, but has definitely transferred the onus of state-building to leaders younger to him who might need to follow the political path shown by Bhattarai – that of unity, tolerance and mutual existence.