Running the government was not an easy task for Tulsi Giri who had been out of power for 11 years. On 9 September 1977, Prime Minister Giri was planning to meet a Japanese delegation after receiving Yugoslav ambassador at Singha Durbar, who had paid him a courtesy visit. Right at that time he was informed that the cabinet had been dissolved.
The palace notice shocked Giri. As if the dismissal was not enough, the palace later dragged him into a corruption case when, in 1978, he was charged on a ‘carpet scam’. The palace had in 1975 formed the Commission for Control of Abuse of Authority to control high-level corruption and the carpet case was its first: 91 bigwigs including politicians, businessmen, and bureaucrats were implicated.
Following the incident, Giri became disillusioned with the Panchayat regime. But a conservative section of Panchayat used to adore him and wanted him to stay in politics. With the announcement of referendum in 1979, conservative Panchas brought him back into active politics. He gave stirring speeches at public rallies in support of Panchayat. But he also said he was victim of conspiracy and was ready to be hanged if corruption charges against him were proven.
During the Panchayat regime, Giri was projected as a firebrand politician. In the referendum rallies, he used to say, “If the King so orders, we Panchas should be willing even to put on a saree.”
On 14 May 1980, when the result of the referendum was published, Giri made a surprise announcement of quitting active politics. He said he had taken ‘political retirement’ as he wanted to live a peaceful civilian life. Many did not buy it. After all, city walls were still wet with the slogan, “Giri is the mother of Panchayat system.”
Three years after his ‘retirement’, Giri gave a famous speech on 16 December 1983: “I am worried that the party-less system is under threat. But I will keep fighting for its longevity.” In 1985, the country was geared for year-long celebration of the silver jubilee of Panchayat system. Giri was made the coordinator of the celebrations but left the country for good before the celebrations ended.
Many interpreted Giri’s leave as a case of sulking as he was no longer in a position of power. Out of the country, he was gradually slipping into anonymity. But still some people went to meet him during his 19 years spent between Sri Lanka and India’s Bangalore. The message they carried back was: “Giri will never return to politics.” It served as a useful reference for people to criticize those who clung to power: “They better learn from Giri.”
On 1 February 2005 when King Gyanendra took over, he thought of using the same people whom his father Mahendra trusted. He appointed himself the chairman of the council of ministers, and chose Giri and Kritinidhi Bista for the two vice-chairmen’s posts.
The palace regarded Giri as a ‘sharp horse’ and Bista as a man of morality. But Gyanendra failed to realize that the once ‘sharp horse’ had now grown senile. Giri was already 78 when he was appointed cabinet vice-chairman.
Giri used to say he was a man without ideology, from the start of the Panchayat era till the February 1 royal coup. Addressing reporters after assuming office following the coup, he said, “My personal opinions are not important. I surrendered my opinions to the king way back in 1960.”
In fact, one can call him an ‘extremist’—in religion and in politics. In each case, he jumped from one end to the other. He was involved with the Hindu ‘Swayamsevak Sangh’ in India, a Hindu nationalist militant group, in his
He later ditched Hinduism to take up Christianity. Once an opponent, he turned into a staunch supporter of monarchy. From one extreme, he easily went to another. This ‘flexible’ politician died on 18 December 2018, aged 93 O
Next week’s ‘Vault of History’ will discuss the Panchayati-era system of picking four MPs to the national legislature from among Bachelors’ degree holders.