If anyone tells you that a former chair of a political party in Nepal lives in a dera (not a sophisticated flat, but a room or two to live a basic life), you probably would not believe them. But, it is a true story and it is the story of Chitra Bahadur KC, the once chair of Rastriya Janamorcha.
After winning the recent parliamentary elections from Baglung-1, KC is currently residing in his Kapan-based party office. But, he is currently looking for another place nearby, one that is affordable. His journey to look for a place to stay is as interesting as his life.
His first innings
Chitra Bahadur KC, now 80, is a household name among the public following parliamentary politics. Some know him as a revolutionary, a critic of federalism, and an orator.
Born in Galkot of Baglung, KC came to Kathmandu with his father when he was 14. His political journey also started when he was 14 with a membership in the Communist Party.
His father was working as a cook in Baglung. When Kunwar Indrajit Singh became the prime minister and overthrew the king of Galkot, a team of locals with his father came to Kathmandu to request King Mahendra to retain the system there.
The group first walked to Pokhara and then boarded a plane to Kathmandu that cost them Rs 60. They submitted their request but did not get the results. When they were returning, the king then requested KC’s father to leave the boy behind, promising that he would get the necessary education here. KC’s father agreed to it for his education and to leave a representative behind for the pending request.
But, Chitra Bahadur KC was not admitted to any school. For the next six months, he washed dishes in the palace. “I only got to smell the food being made. On our plates, we would only get rice and gundruk,” writing a letter to his mother, KC explained everything and said that he did not want to continue the work.
The concerned mother sent KC her dhungri (a pair of earrings) to sell and get some money. So KC came out of the palace to sell it and never went back. Then with the money, he got himself admitted to Nandi Ratri High School.
Then, he began renting a dera one after another. “That time, the rent was Rs 5 a month. I used to share a flat in Narayanchaur of Naxal with my friends while I stayed there for my intermediate and bachelor’s degrees.”
But in 1969, when the government gave orders to arrest him, he fled Kathmandu and went into hiding.
Shaky second innings
Chitra Bahadur KC boycotted the 1991 elections. He lost the next round of elections in 1994. Then, in 1999, he won the elections and again entered Kathmandu. This time, he started living in Ghattekulo, in a rented room. He spent around two decades there.
“The owners changed three times, but I was still there, stagnant. The rent was Rs 1,000 a month at first, but when I left, it was Rs 9,000.”
He also won another election in 2013 and continued the dera life. In 2017, he did not get a seat in the parliament, hence he left his rented space too and he went to live with his daughter in Bhairahawa.
Chitra Bahadur KC also has two sons, one in Japan and another here. Neither have their own house in the city.
“For two elderlies, living–even surviving–in Kathmandu became tough.” His wife is 75 years old.
When he reached Bhairahawa, KC shared that he had given up on getting back into the parliamentary game and even promised to not return to Kathmandu. But seeing the country go into chaos and instability, he decided to run for the elections again this time.
After winning the November 20 elections, he is back in Kathmandu. Residing in the party office, for the time being, he is now searching for another room to live in. But now, inflation has worried him.
Outlier, through and through
In 2015, Chitra Bahadur KC was a deputy prime minister and minister for cooperative and poverty alleviation. Yet, he was unable to alleviate his poor economic condition. He is living proof that politicians cannot earn or change their lifestyle without getting their hands dirty.
“When you are a minister, people have a notion that you are there to earn money. But did I become the minister to fill my pockets with black money? I never got tempted to do so, and nor will I be now.”
As a member of parliament, Chitra Bahadur KC gets Rs 18,000 monthly for rent. And, he is seeking a room around the Baneshwor area that comes within his budget and still saves something.
“But any liveable place here costs Rs 40,000 in rent alone.”
Given the parliament building is in Baneshwor, he does not want to stay far from there. The government is building a new structure inside Singha Durbar. Even when the new parliament starts its meeting in the new building, KC wishes that he gets a room nearby so that he does not have to ride the public vehicle to get anywhere.
His political party has repeatedly requested him to ride a car, but he has never heeded. He is popularly known as the politician who walks or rides tempo (a three-wheeler) to work “like the people he is representing”.
This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.