Thursday Sep 29, 2022
Thursday Sep 29, 2022

107th birth anniversary of BP Koirala today

US reaction to ouster of Nepal's first democratically elected Prime Minister after 18 months in office in 1960

2021 Sep 09, 13:32, Kathmandu
This undated image shows BP Koirala, Nepal's first democratically elected Prime Minister and legendary leader of Nepal's democratic movement of the 1950s.

Today commemorates the 107th birth anniversary of BP Koirala, Nepal's first democratically elected Prime Minister and legendary leader of Nepal's democratic movement of the 1950s.

Prime Minister BP Koirala could not sustain his five-year-long tenure. He was forcefully ousted on December 15, 1960, by the then King Mahendra just after 18 months of assuming office. Koirala constituted his cabinet on May 27, 1959, after the first-ever 45-day-long general elections that started on February 18, 1959, concluded.

A day after Koirala's forceful ouster, on December 16, 1960, The New York Times published a news story with the headline "Nepal's cabinet ousted by King, Mahendra seizes ministers as 'Anti-Nationalists' and dissolves parliament". The news reported from Kathmandu on December 15 read, ''King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev dismissed the government and suspended parliament today after arresting Premier BP Koirala and other officials. The proclamation broadcast to the nation said the King had acted because the government was in league with anti-national elements and had acted against the national interests of the nation: the sovereignty and the national unity. The broadcast said the King invoked an article of the constitution to dismiss the government.''

The published news story gave more details and wrote, ''The arrests were made at the first annual convention of the National Youth League, which the government leaders were attending. Premier Koirala, Home Minister Surya Prashad Upadhyaya, Transport Minister Ganeshman Singh and the Speaker of the Lower House, Krishna Prashad Bhattarai, were taken from the conference to the government secretariat in a jeep. It is believed that the operation was carried out by General Nir Shumsher, the then Royal Nepalese Army Commander-in-Chief."

This story appeared on the first and sixth page of the prestigious US daily. The story said that curfew was imposed from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am and no newspapers were forced to cease their daily publications. So far as, interpreting 'anti-national elements' of the King Mahendra's proclamation, The New York Times published that it was 'indirect reference to communists who had been fostering anti-Indian feelings in Nepal and carrying out subversive activities in the northern border areas.''

Reporting on the US response to the infamous ouster, the news story quoted unnamed US officials at the State Department. It was written, ''State Department officials said today that they had no clear idea what was behind the action of the Nepalese King in placing Premier and the leading officials under arrest. King Mahendra's action caught the United States by surprise. Officials said they assumed that internal developments were behind the King's action, but they were not sure.''

After five days of the ouster, King Mahendra held a meeting with US Ambassador to Nepal, Henry E Stebbins, on December 20, 1960. The half-hour talks at Narayanhiti, the Royal Palace, at 8:00 pm, gives a clear picture of the move. King Mahendra gave seven logics for his move. The details of the conversation were dispatched from Kathmandu to the US Department of State on December 21, 1960. State Department had declassified this conversation.

The King's seven-point clarification, summarised by the US embassy in Kathmandu, was as follows:

1. He took the step on his own responsibility with no outside influence whatsoever brought to bear.

2. He had planned this move for some time and knew of the appropriate timing when the Ambassador last saw him on December 9.

3. He professed a strong belief in democracy, which he claims he himself has brought to Nepal and will continue to work towards it.

4. He hopes to maintain friendly relationships with all countries, including the United States.

5. He dismissed the government and imprisoned its leaders because they were guilty of corruption and of aiding and abetting communism.

6. He intends, before the end of the year, to appoint a Council of State which will form the new government and help him rule the country until such times as he feels the country is ready for another attempt at the parliamentary government.

7. He assured that former Prime Minister BP Koirala and other members of the late Government were being well treated and that he did not contemplate harsh action against them.

The State Department briefing from the Embassy based in Kathmandu even unearthed the emotional and communication traits of the then King Mahendra. It stated, ''During the interview, which lasted about half an hour, the King was relaxed and was self-confident, spoke freely and, for him, with unusual fluency in English. He was straightforward and looked at the Ambassador straight in the eye.''

Before eight months of his takeover, king Mahendra paid his state visit to the US from April 27 to 30 of 1960. On April 28, he even addressed the US Congress. Interestingly, the US reaction to the King's takeover was seemingly positive. The book titled 'Foreign Policy of Nepal' authored by SD Muni describes US standing 'as an international matter of Nepal'. He writes, ''The newly elected US President John F Kennedy in his reply to King Mahendra's goodwill message in February 1961 assured him that the friendly relations between the two countries will be preserved.''


BP Koirala Nepal's first democratically elected Prime Minister leader of Nepal's democratic movement 1950s democratic movement of Nepal
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