“Why did you enmesh me in the Jogi episode?” King Mahendra asked Prime Minister Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala two days before the royal coup of 15 December 1960. The activities of a Jogi (mendicant) had sparked an argument between the two. The mendicant was Yogi Naraharinath, who became the last topic of conversation between a prime minister leading a government with a two-third majority and a monarch plotting to dissolve the government and the parliament.
The Jogi was inciting people and creating troubles in various places. He used to show a letter issued by the royal palace and claim he was a close confidant of the king. Such actions soured the relationship between the palace and the Congress party. In fact, Yogi Naraharinath’s incitement had led to a violent incident in Gorkha in the last week of October 1960. BP claimed that the Jogi was acting under Mahendra’s instructions. The monarch was miffed when the prime minister publicly made such a claim.
Koirala has allotted three pages in his autobiography to Yogi Naraharinath. He mentions in detail the heated discussion he had with King Mahendra.
Mahendra: You made a statement accusing us without evidence. BP: The Jogi was going around saying that the king had instructed him to revolt against the atheistic prime minister and his government. As proof, he used to show a royal seal. I haven’t spoken without evidence, your majesty.
Mahendra: What evidence? BP: He showed people a letter bearing a royal seal written by your military secretary. He even claimed he had been paid for the job.
The Jogi was arrested in the district of Jumla on 29 October 1960 and brought to Kathmandu. He had in his possession a letter signed by Sher Bahadur Malla, King Mahendra’s aide-de-camp (ADC). On the very day, BP showed that letter to Mahendra.
When the argument between the two escalated, Mahendra said, “BP Babu, only one among us can remain. Either you run the country and I will withdraw. Or you quit and I will run the country.” Such a proposition was not acceptable to BP. He replied, “I refuse to govern without the king’s support.”
Finally, the two came to an agreement not to denounce one another. Mahendra said, “Okay then, if I make a mistake, you can come to this room, take off your shoes and hit me with them. But please be mindful of my prestige outside.”
The Congress had already guessed that King Mahendra would usurp the reins of power. Deputy Prime Minister Subarna Shumsher Rana, who was related to the royal family, had left for Calcutta two days before the December 15 royal coup. Before leaving Nepal, Rana had had secret talks with BP.
They had concluded that the king would mount a coup, but only after the visit of the British queen, who was already scheduled to come to Nepal in February 1961.
Their assumption—that the king would not stage a coup against a democratically elected government on the eve of the visit of the queen of Britain, the birthplace of the parliamentary system—proved wrong.
Next week’s ‘Vault of history’ column will discuss Yogi Naraharinath’s background and political stance