Birth: 15 June 1947, Gulmi
Death: 15 July 2021, Kathmandu
There are perhaps only a handful of Nepali politicians who think well of their political foes. Ashok Kumar Thapa, chairperson of Gulmidarbar Rural Municipality, was one of them.
After the 2017 local government elections, the municipalities of the Gulmi district were dominated by representatives from CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center). Gulmidarbar was the only municipality in the district that elected chairperson as well as four of seven ward chairs from the Nepali Congress.
Following the elections, everyone thought that a political tussle would ensue between Thapa, the lone Congress chairperson, and other representatives. But nothing of the sort happened.
Thapa allocated more budget (almost double) to the communist-led wards compared to those led by his party. His fellow party members criticized him for this, but he argued that the budget was being allocated considering the wards’ needs.
Thapa was also known for treating officials, bureaucrats, and the whole citizenry like his own children. Even when he was out of power, Thapa made his presence felt by participating in social work—people considered him as more of a social worker than a politician.
Before his time in government, Thapa worked as a secondary-level teacher at a community school. He gave up teaching after being elected the district coordination committee member.
Despite his old age, Thapa was full of energy. His iconic initiatives included a drive to make the municipality thatched roof-free, providing free beds and ambulance facilities to pregnant women and planning to have drinking water taps in every household. Under his leadership, the rural municipality provided free sanitary pads for female students, conducted menstruation health awareness programs as well as regular free health camps. He also started a campaign to promote Ruru-Resunga as a tourist destination.
Thapa rolled out scholarship programs for students in community schools. He also proposed collaboration between private and public schools in order to recruit teachers to teach English in public schools.
Thapa recently passed away at a hospital in Kathmandu. The 74-year-old asthma patient had been bedridden for three months. He is survived by his wife and four sons.