During his final days then Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala, who passed away on February 9, was preparing to announce his candidacy for the top post once again. According to party insiders, Sushil did not want to contest the election for his own sake. He wanted to win so that he could promote one of the three Koiralas, who were seen as possible torch bearers of the family.
Sushil, who used to live with his cousin BP Koirala’s youngest son Shashank at his home in Tokha, wanted to project Shashank as the party’s future leader. He was Sushil’s Koirala of choice over Shekhar and Sujata, both of whom aspire to become the party’s president in the future.
According to Sushil’s aides, Sushil backed Shashank for two reasons: he is the son of Nepali Congress stalwart BP Koirala, and a he claims to be the only one who can carry BP’s legacy forward. Sujata openly criticised Sushil, and Shekhar was not considered a worthy successor because he was the son of Nona Koirala, with whom Sushil always had to compete for GP Koirala’s attention.
Shashanks’ critics say that he has risen meteorically in the party just because he is BP’s son.
If Sushil were alive, he would have backed Shashank, who has now been elected the party’s general secretary. The party’s votes know this, and this could have helped him get the winning vote. The other reason, analysts say, is that Nepali Congress is a traditional party where tradition and legacy always come first. Of the three candidates in contention for the post of general secretary, Sashank scored the most in both the categories.
According to family sources, Shashank was close to his father since his childhood; he was born at at time when BP was campaigning for the 1958 election. When BP was jailed by King Mahendra, Shashank was sent to Varanasi in India where he went to school, and finished college. He received his MBBS degree in India, and also tied the knot with Dr Supatra Bhatia. Shashank, who has been elected the party’s general secretary, is an ophthalmologist. Although he entered active politics in 1990, he became member of Parliament (Constituent Assembly) only after the second People’s Movement.
Shashank’s supporters say his strength lies in his ability to take an ideological stand on issues that are important to the party’s cause.
Shashanks’ critics say that he has risen meteorically in the party just because he is BP’s son, and in reality does not have what it takes to lead the party in the future. They also say that he still lives in the past, and has accepted the ground reality of the country. During an interview just ahead of the party’s convention, he said that Nepali Congress should revise its stance on key issues such as monarchy and federalism. He even went on to say that the party should also take a fresh look at the issue of secularism. The Koirala has also been criticised for indulging in his personal life, and not dedicating himself to the party’s cause.
Shashank’s supporters say his strength lies in his ability to take an ideological stand on issues that are important to the party’s cause. He remains unfazed in his ideology even when people around him are skeptical.