Singh and Koirala: Great leaders, greater friends
If the seed of friendship between Ganesh Man Singh and B P Koirala was the vision of a democratic Nepal, their relationship nurtured owing to good faith and mutual respect. Both held each other in high regards, and would usually consult each other before making decisions that would affect Nepal and its people.
So much so, years later, when Ganesh Man Singh shares his life story to Mathbar Singh, he does not miss a single opportunity to praise Koirala’s political vision, his values, and his beliefs.
Take the instance of party unification for example:
After the unification talks in Patna, Singh believed B. P. Koirala should lead the party.
“To deal a significant blow to the regime, I believed the party should be led by a dynamic and charismatic leader. I believed B. P. Koirala was perfect for the task, and nominated him as president. Subarna Shamsher too supported my nomination of Koirala as party-president”, Singh shared.
Mahabir Shumsher however disagreed; he believed B. P. Koirala had an inflexible character, and the newly founded party needed someone who would be willing to bend in a few key issues – should such a situation arise.
Meanwhile, Mahendra Bikram Shah and Suryanarayan Prasad Upadhyaya who had led unification talks in Patna, had agreed to nominate B. P. Koirala as president, and could not go against their own word. They also did not want to go against Mahabir Shumsher, and were in a dilemma.
“The dilemma was solved by B. P. Koirala himself – by refusing to be president of the new party”, Singh shares an insight into Koirala.
“Koirala usually would not care for a post. His only concerns were the party’s ideology and his own principles”, Singh adds.
Therefore, on 27th March, the two parties announced their merger via a joint statement. “The unity and merger of the two parties is a historic necessity to usher democratic reform in Nepal”, the statement read. The statement also asked the support of all Nepali brothers and sisters, and said a formal conference would soon be held in Calcutta.
NC’s first conference and the flag conundrum:
During unification talks, Singh had been adamant the new party’s flag would be of Nepali Rashtriya Congress, and had gotten other leaders to agree.
Rashtriya Congress’s flag had three bands – white, blue, and yellow. The white band symbolized Nepal’s mountains, and had a rising sun reflecting Nepal’s path to modernity, the blue band suggested Nepal’s mid-hilly region, and the yellow band suggested Nepal’s fertile land of the Terai. Subarna Shumsher’s Democratic Congress flag had red bands on the top and the bottom, and a white band in the middle with four red stars on them (or the current party flag of NC).
The joint conference of the representatives of Nepali Rashtriya Congress and Nepal Democratic Congress was held on 8th, 9th, and 10th of April, 1950 at the Tiger Cinema Hall, Calcutta.
It was met with great enthusiasm, and several members from Kathmandu which included Surya Bahadur Bhardwaj, Ram Lal Tamrakar, Devi Lal Shrestha, Batak Sharma too joined the conference. Others from Patna, Banaras, and Dehradun, Raxaul, amongst other places of India too arrived.
A great commotion ensued when B. P.Koirala announced the new party’s flag would be of the Nepal Democratic Congress – several even pressed Ganesh Man Singh to protest the decision. Singh, who was shocked upon hearing the news, urged patience within his side of representatives.
“There must be a reason, let us wait until he steps down from the podium”, Singh told other members.
Later Singh asked Koirala the reason for deviating from the agreed party flag, to which Koirala said Subarna Shamsher had already tailored thousands of flags – and adopting the old flag would mean “lakhs of rupees in finances and labour cost would go for a waste”.
Singh himself had arrived only one day before the conference, therefore wasn’t informed of the development.
Thus the party flag of Nepali Congress was decided. The conference also declared the name of the party to be Nepali Congress and that Matrika Prasad Koirala would be its president.
Note: The flag of Rashritya Congress, as shown above is suggestive, and based on the colors of the flag as shared by Ganesh Man Singh to Mathbar Singh.
A renewed sense of hope:
The formation of Nepali Congress instilled a renewed sense of hope within Nepalis living in Nepal, and those exiled in India. The conference also passed the manifesto of Nepali Congress – a deep analysis of the political situation of Nepal was penned by B. P. Koirala. The manifesto also declared a resolution to initiate democratic reform in Nepal by launching a widespread people’s revolution to terminate the Rana regime in Nepal.
After a few days of the joint conference, Subarna Shumsher requested to see B. P. Koirala and Ganesh Man Singh. Thus, they headed to Subarna Shumsher’s flat.
“Subarna Shumsher did not demonstrate an aristocratic nature, and held profound belief in reform which sent a message of assurance within me”, Singh would tell Mathbar Singh later.
After a brief talk, Subarna Shumsher approached the topic of finance.
“How much money would we need to launch the revolutionary movement?” Subarna Shumsher asked.
Ganesh Man Singh and B P Koirala were caught off-guard, nevertheless said “the party would need around 25 to 30 lakhs for the movement”
Koirala and Singh were apprehensive, thinking Subarna Shumsher would shy away from that kind of financial commitment, however were pleasantly surprised with his response:
“Will 25-30 lakhs be enough? What kind of revolutionary movement will you be able to launch with that much amount”, Subarna Shumsher asked.
“I am prepared to commit Rs. 1 crore. And since Mahabir Shumsher will commit an equal amount of what I commit”, he added.
Koirala and Singh were astounded – with that kind of financial support; they could run a highly effective revolutionary campaign.