The Iron ManA fitting tribute to Ganesh Man Singh on his 100th birth anniversary would be for all leaders to unite and finish the constitution
Principled politics was considered the defining characteristic of Nepali Congress (NC) leaders of yesteryear. These leaders fought for a cause and each commanded a certain degree of respect. If the likes of BP Koirala, Ganesh Man Singh, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, and Girija Prasad Koirala were alive and active now, perhaps the tumultous state of present day politics would have been different. These leaders were able to draw the attention of Nepalis to participate in a democratic movement. BP Koirala was considered a visionary leader and respected by almost everybody across the spectrum. Likewise, Ganesh Man Singh was considered the ‘Iron Man’, the ‘Supreme Leader’ and the father of democracy.
We recently marked the 100th birthday of BP Koirala, and similarly, Ganesh Man Singh’s 100th birth anniversary was on Sunday. Celebrating the centennial birthdays of BP Koirala and Ganesh Man Singh in the same year should be a moment of pride for Nepali people and freedom fighters. So the main organising committee for the 100-year birth anniversary celebrations of both leaders, along with the NC, should jointly plan programmes so that a greater number of people get to know of the great leaders that these two stalwarts were.
The Iron Man
Ganesh Man Singh was born on November 9, 1915 and was commander of the popular 1990 Janaandolan. Singh was also one of the main leaders of the Nepali Congress movement of 1951, which overthrew the Rana regime. More than anything else, Ganesh Man was a rebel and a freedom fighter. He was a popular hero and his exploits are legendary. He was a man of small proportions but charismatic, fearless, and physically very strong. He was never afraid of taking risks in his political career. He was a straightforward and frank leader in dealing with all. The Rana administration then had declared an attractive reward for anybody bringing Ganesh Man to them, dead or alive. Yet, BP sent Ganesh Man back to Nepal from India on a political mission. Ultimately, Ganesh Man was caught by the police and was sent to jail. It was an incredibly risky mission for Ganesh Man, who had escaped from Bhadragol Jail in Kathmandu in 1944 and had gone to India to work with other colleagues. Yet, he returned to fight the despotic Rana regime and this feat earned him the title ‘Iron Man’.
After BP’s death in 1982, Ganesh Man became supreme leader of the Congress. He was instrumental in forging a working relationship between the NC and Nepal’s communist leaders. Ganesh Man, the commander of the 1990 Janaandolan, was accompanied by other popular, farsighted, and dedicated freedom fighters—KP Bhattarai, GP Koirala, Manamohan Adhikari—when he overthrew the Panchayat system in 1990. Ganesh Man even dared organise a Nepali Congress convention in his own residence, when the political parties had been banned. He also invited popular Indian leaders to support the mass movement in Nepal. He is the only person ever in the history of Nepal to refuse to become prime minister even when requested by the monarch.
Ganesh Man was a rare breed amongst Nepali politicians—a man of integrity. He demonstrated his greatness through his leadership, rising above petty personal interests. Recognising his outstanding contribution to the field of democracy and human rights, Ganesh Man was honored by the United Nations with the ‘Human Rights Award’ in 1993. He was the first statesman from South Asia to receive this prestigious award. He also received the ‘United States Peace Run Prize’ in 1990 for his contribution to peace in Nepal and the world. He was also decorated with the ‘U Thant Peace Award’. He has become immortalised as a great leader that the nation and its citizens, without any political barriers, feel proud of. No other national leader has been able to fill the political vacuum after his death.
The best tribute
Ganesh Man was not an intellectual heavyweight, but he was forthright and unpretentious. And he possessed immense energy. Today, when Nepali democracy is marred by corruption and opportunism, and when the system that was supposed to deliver economic prosperity is gradually failing, Ganesh Man’s death is a saddening reminder of missed chances and the decay of political idealism. Currently, the country desperately needs a leader like him, who can blend both courage and sacrifice to deal with crisis. Nepali politicians today display a disregard for the rule of law and most of them have outlived their utility and mandate.
A leader must have the trust of followers. This requires the highest standard of integrity, which Ganesh Man demonstrated. Even after the dissolution of the first Constituent Assembly (CA) and the election of a new one, the political parties have not been able to harmonise their political agendas. Grave disagreements on various issues have raised questions about the capability and sincerity of leaders. The issue of federalism has become a tinderbox that could ignite communal violence in the country at the slightest provocation. There is much negativity in current politics due to the failure of political leaders to take decisions in time and the absence of an agreeable charismatic character.
Nepal is very much awaiting principled politics. So the programmes to mark the centenary of Ganesh Man’s birth should be reason enough to tread the path he showed. And it is not only Nepali leaders but also the youth of Nepal who should be aware of the value of Ganesh Man’s politics. The centenary programmes for BP Koirala motivated the Nepali people to cast their vote for democracy in Nepal and perhaps as a result, the Congress became the largest party through the 2013 CA elections. If the centenary programmes for Ganesh Man could encourage leaders to unite for the nation’s cause and complete the new constitution, it would be a fitting tribute to the late, great Ganesh Man Singh.
Ghimire is a youth leader of the Nepali Congress