In her six-and-a-half decades of life, Shailaja spent around 50 years involved in politics. She was the first revolutionary youth to speak out against king Mahendra's takeover in 1960. Shailaja was the epitome of revolution. Her death comes at a time when the country is in dire need of such dedicated politicians.
Nepal has been declared a democratic republic, having abolished the monarchy and taken steps towards federalism. But what it lacks is political integrity, which Shailaja possessed. Who in the present cabinet would resign from a ministerial post while admitting their inability to control corruption? Who would stand against those in power and yet appeal to all with her logic?
Shailaja resigned from the post of agriculture minister even when her maternal uncle Girija Prasad Koirala was the prime minister. Baladeb Majgainya, Lok Krishna Bhattarai and Homnath Dahal were other leaders who were inspired by her to resign. The resignation of former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, former home minister Gobindaraj Joshi and erstwhile PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal are remarkable. But their resignations had more to do with strategy, politics and personal dignity than ethics.
Shailaja's death comes at a time the NC needs good leadership. Shailaja, Sher Bahadur Deuba and Ram Chandra Poudel were all candidates to replace Koirala. Now, Sujata Koirala has come to the fore in place of Shailaja.
In the coming days, Sujata, Sher Bahadur and Ram Chandra will either have to loosen the shackles imposed by the party or work together to lead. It has to be understood that the second generation leaders in NC are as responsible for party failures as Koirala. There is a sliver of hope in the new generation, but they are not yet ready to take leadership.
Sujata is attempting to take the leadership of the party with the backing of her ageing father, thereby continuing the Koirala political dynasty. There is not just the need for a new face but also new ideas in order to democratise the party. The party needs a complete overhaul in order to uphold democracy.