After vacillating for months and after surviving one crisis after another, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala finally decided to step down Thursday. It took the combined effort of powerful dissidents within his own party, the opposition led by the UML, and the Maoists to bring him down after more than six months of trying. The reason they wanted him out: Koirala was getting just too powerful.
To be sure, Koirala failed in all three of the tasks he had given himself when he toppled Krishna Prasad Bhattarai in March 2000: streamline governance, control corruption and resolve the Maoist insurgency.
"He had made up his mind to leave long ago, but he was waiting for the right moment," a senior Nepali Congress minister told us. That moment was the brouhaha over Koirala's off-the-cuff speech at the FNCCI meeting on Tuesday in which he said in Nepali: "Today, Nepal has reached a stage where it could become a playground for foreign powers.let's not be forced to seek foreign help to solve our problems just because we can't do it ourselves."
By itself the remark needn't have been so contentious, but the opposition seized on it. Even the RPP and Sadbhabana, which have often sided with Koirala during his hour of need, joined the opposition in parliament.
Having finally succeeded to get the army out to rescue police in Rolpa, Koirala was buoyant last week, and thought he could hang on a little longer. Impatient with a boss who wouldn't step down, Deputy Prime Minister Ram Chandra Poudel quit last week. Poudel will now be among the wannabes along with Sher Bahadur Deuba and foreign minister Chakra Bastola. Even Krishna Prasad Bhattarai thinks he can do a hat-trick.
The parliamentary party will now meet to elect a new prime minister who will need at least 57 votes. The paradox is that Koirala was the only one who could muster and keep the magic 57 through thick and thin. Even though he is no longer prime minister, as party president, Koirala will still be kingmaker.