The Nepali Congress, the oldest democratic party of the country, has been the key player in all the democratic movements of Nepal in the past 60 years. Until the election to the Constituent Assembly in 2008, this party enjoyed the status of the largest party in Nepal. However, it suffered a humiliating defeat in the historic Constituent Assembly elections due mainly to the intra-party feud and was placed as the second-largest party. While this party fought alone against the 104-year-old Rana autocracy and succeeded in ushering in democracy in Nepal in 1951, it also successfully led the democratic changes of 1990 and 2006. Hardly has a single party led three democratic movements for six decades elsewhere as well. But the Nepali Congress showed this feat and is still active in institutionalising the democratic achievements.
In these 60 years, the party swept to power in three general elections out of the five held. It won a two/third majority in the first general elections of 1959 and formed a government under the leadership of its charismatic leader B. P. Koirala. This government made several important decisions which no government formed thereafter could dare to make. But the popularly elected government was overthrown by a coup staged by King Mahendra in 1960, 18 months after its formation, and most of its leaders, including B.P. Koirala, were put behind bars. Still the party continued its struggle for democracy, making the political changes of both 1990 and 2006 possible.
However, there has been a scarcity of adequate documents to understand the history of this historic party. Especially, the young generation has been feeling a need for greater literature on the party. Also many of the youths have been misinformed about the Nepali Congress by the communist and Panchayat literature. They have deliberately portrayed the Nepali Congress as being pro-Indian and a party of landlords. In the absence of adequate books about the history of the revolutionary party, many youths have been swayed by such misinformation.
B. P. Koirala had felt the need of writing the history of the Nepali Congress in 1977, according to his jail dairy mentioned in the book under review. And almost 32 years after, Purusottam Basnet, also a leader of the party, has succeeded in coming up with the first part of the history of the Nepali Congress.
No doubt, the Nepali Congress and democracy used to be synonymous. However, the communists have always been against such a notion. Indeed, the history of the Nepali Congress is also the history of Nepal’s democratic movement. The book under review is a testimony to this.
Anyone who reads Part 1 of Nepali Congressko Itihasko Prarup will surely realise that the Nepali Congress represents the democratic movement of Nepal and is a party of nationalists.
In the about 600-page book, Basnet has included the political history of about 108 years, beginning with the Kot massacre of 1903 B. S. to the demise of King Tribhuvan in 2011 B.S. (1955). The book is divided into 42 main chapters and several sub chapters. In the first five chapters, the writer mentions about the rise of the Ranas, the conspiracies and murders among the ruling Ranas, revolt of Lakhan Thapa, anti-Rana activities, formation of political organisations like Prachnada Gorkha, Parja Parishad, execution of four martyrs, and arrest and death of Krishna Prasad Koirala.
Chapters 6-12 deal with the formation of the two Congress parties - Rastriya Congress and Prajatantra Congress, the historic labour movement, B. P.’s secret arrival in Kathmandu and merger of the two parties to form the Nepali Congress.
In the 13th and 14th chapters, the writer talks about the plans and decision of the party to launch an armed revolt against the Ranas. The 15th chapter is about King Tribhuvan’s decision to take refuge at the Indian embassy in Kathmandu first and his departure for New Delhi.
Chapters 16-25 make mention of how the Nepali Congress waged its armed revolt by successfully capturing nearly all major towns and areas outside the valley. Basnet has described in detail about the leaders who were at the forefront of the war in all the important regions. Indeed, these chapters make the readers highly emotional as they tell what the ‘revolution’ was in the true sense. Indeed, these chapters tell us how the youths associated with the Nepali Congress were ready to sacrifice their lives for democracy in the country.
Chapter 26 deals with the Delhi Agreement. Basnet has ended several confusions prevailing about the Delhi Agreement by revealing how the Nepali Congress had to unwillingly announce a cease-fire and how its leaders had to agree with the agreement orchestrated by the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Likewise, Basnet has mentioned the terror of the Khukuri Dal in this chapter.
In chapters 27 and 28, the author has written about the return of King Tribhuvan and leaders of the Nepali Congress to Nepal and the declaration of democracy by the king. Basnet makes it clear that King Tribhuvan had mentioned a ‘republican’ system would prevail when the word ‘democratic’ system was mistakenly translated as ‘republican’ into Nepali.
The chapters thereafter are about the formation of the Rana-Congress Government, resignation of Mohan Shumsher, clash between the government and the Nepali Congress, formation the Rastriya Parja Parishad, Nehru’s Nepal visit, the fifth convention of the Nepali Congress and the demise of king Tribhuvan.
Basnet has also included black and white pictures of the Ranas and the Nepali Congress leaders who were actively involved in the anti-Rana revolution of 1950 and 1951. There are also cuttings from newspapers that printed news about the Nepali Congress. Likewise, the book has an appendix consisting of the appeals and manifestos of the party.
The book is highly informative as well as interesting. The writer has been honest in making mention of the names and contributions of all the leaders involved in the democratic movement in the well-written and edited book.