KATHMANDU, Nov 11: Kriti Nidhi Bista, a three-time prime minister remembered for his life-long stand for national interests and clean public image, passed away on Saturday. He was 91.
Born on January 15, 1927 at Thamel, Kathmandu, Bista breathed his last at his Gyaneshwar-based residence, according to his son Binod Bista. Reportedly, he had been diagnosed with cancer and his health condition had been deteriorating for the past some days.
Bista served as the country's prime minister three times during the Panchayat system from 1969-1970, 1971-1973 and 1977-1979. He became one of the two vice-chairmen in the government headed by the then King Gyanenedra after the latter took over executive powers in 2005 until the king-led government collapsed under the pressure of the people's agitation in April 2006.
Despite being close to the then Royal Palace, Bista is remembered for his integrity and taking a firm stance on national interests in crucial situations. “He should be remembered for his integrity and well-cultured manner. He loved the country and he made an image of a leader of strong moral ground,” said former minister and political analyst Nilamber Acharya.
One of the major reasons Bista is remembered for is his bold decisions taken during his prime ministerial tenure was to remove Indian military posts stationed at various places in Nepal. “There were Indian army personnel stationed at the northern check posts on the border with Tibet and there was an Indian militarily mission right in front of the central zoo, at today's Staff College at Jawalakhel. I removed them all. I had the strong support of King Mahendra,” Bista had told Republica in an interview in 2015. Bista dared to take decisions amidst huge Indian influence in the country at the moment.
He remembered his Indian counterpart Indira Gandhi expressing her concern during their 1972 meeting. "Prime Minister, why did you remove the Indian military missions in such a public manner? We could have done it diplomatically," Bista had quoted Gandhi as saying, during the interview.
Many remember Bista also for taking a position against India and not surrendering to the southern neighbor when it imposed its first blockade on Nepal in 1969.
Also, his decision to resign from the post of prime minister on moral grounds after the main administrative building of the country, Singhadurbar, was destroyed in a fire on July 9, 1973, received public admiration.
Bista refrained from politics after the restoration of multi-party democracy in 1990 for a long time. But he accepted the then King Gyanendra Shah's proposal to become a vice-chairman of the government following the king's takeover. Bista had to face public criticism for being loyal to the King amid the huge public outrage against the autocratic rule of the King.
Acharya said, politicians still respected Bista for his humble personality and integrity even after the people's movement ousted the monarchy. “People respected him though he was a Panchayati prime minister and the second-man in the former King's cabinet, because he was honest and a true nationalist,” said Acharya.
Bista's long-time illness had remained unknown to many. His family carried out his funeral without any publicity as per his wish. His family source said that Bista had wished not to receive any state honor during his last rites.
Very few leaders appeared during the funeral procession of Bista at Pashupati Aryaghat on Saturday afternoon. Some leaders including former Prime Minister Madhav Nepal, deputy prime minister Kamal Thapa and chairman of Rastriya Rastrabadi Prakash Chandra Lohani attended the funeral procession.
Bista worked for enhancing bilateral relation with the northern neighbor China and reducing Indian meddling in the country, which was high during the Panchayat era. “While maintaining relation with India, we must not compromise our sovereignty and independence,” Bista had said in the interview with Republica, adding, “Nepal should convince India that it is in India's interest to have good relations with Nepal and to let it remain a sovereign and independent country. To continue with Nepal's glorious history of an independent country, we should be prepared even to die.”
Bista is remembered for
n Resigning on moral grounds after the main building of Singhadurbar was destroyed in fire in 1973 July 9.
n Removing Indian military checkpoints from the Nepali side of the border with China and from Jawakhel in the capital.
n Facing the 1969 Indian blockade without surrendering to the Indian pressure.