Bishwa Bandhu Thapa’s relations with Tulsi Giri and the palace soured over time. Thapa could not enjoy being part of the cabinet for long. He felt suffocated and resigned on 21 August 1964, citing family obligations, after just one and half months. After that, he started saying that the king, in line with his own promise, should restore the multiparty system.
Tulsi Giri also stopped enjoying the minister’s post, and suddenly announced yet another resignation on 25 January 1965. Frustrated with Giri’s repeated resignations, King Mahendra wanted to appoint Surya Bahadur Thapa as the chair of the cabinet. Thapa, however, was of the view that Giri should not be released from the government. He advised Giri to reconsider, arguing that a rash decision to quit would be unwise and that the Panchayat rule had to be directed to its logical conclusion.
But Giri did not relent, and the palace approved his resignation and appointed Surya Bahadur Thapa as the cabinet chair on the same day. In 2013, yours truly had had a long conversation with Thapa on the Panchayat regime.
Thapa said that Giri had not heeded the request to stay put as he thought the palace did not listen to him. “You had convinced me earlier to go back to the government. The king does not listen to our views, so I won’t go back this time,” Tulsi Giri had said to Surya Bahadur Thapa.
When Giri turned away from the Panchayat system, the palace left no stone unturned to destroy him. Giri opted out of the cabinet, but he still wanted to be a National Panchayat member, someone chosen from among members of the District Panchayat. To that end, he sought to contest the 1967 elections from Janakpur. Astonishingly, he could not find a proposer.
He saw the palace’s hand in that. Shortly after, he put out a statement, saying that the Panchayat regime was a vessel without a bottom and could topple at any moment. Besides, he started speaking foully—even using expletives—against Surya Bahadur Thapa. “What can that Surya Bahadur do?” Giri remarked. Things got so bad that Thapa had Giri arrested in Janakpur in April 1968 and imprisoned in Mahottari among criminal inmates. Giri sent a letter to the palace, requesting it to treat him like a political prisoner. He was released after three months on 8 July 1968.
Giri was known for his colorful and lavish lifestyle. Among his interests were palaces, cars, cameras, watches, and women. He built a rather unconventional house, well known throughout the Panchayat era as ‘The flying house’, at Sanepa Height. When he did not have a political post, Giri used to actively deal in classic vintage cars and old Rana palaces.
Businessmen who understood Giri gifted him watches and cameras. A Russian prime minister had even sent him a Volga car as a present. Many bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen used to envy Giri’s colorful life.
Next week’s ‘Vault of History’ column will discuss Tulsi Giri’s relationship with King Birendra