Ganesh Raj Sharma, born on May 8, 1936, in Rampur, Bara district, had a comparatively short life as he passed away on October 27, 2015. An intellectual with early leanings towards left politics, he had some friends with the same inclination, like Bharat Mohan Adhikary (lawyer and Finance Minister) and Kamal Prasad Koirala (lawyer and ambassador), since his days at Banaras Hindu University. He completed his MA in Economics and LLB from the prestigious institution and served as a lecturer in economics at Dharan before embarking on legal practice.
One major attribute of Sharma was a huge transition from what can be called a committed Marxist to a die-hard royalist, a connotation that I have liberally borrowed from one of my Gurus in DLitt research, Kunwar Natwar Singh, a senior Indian diplomat and prolific writer who once described his Nepali counterpart Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay in the same way.
Taken as one of the legal brains with both integrity and intellectual mould along with admirable flair for writing that Nepali and even foreign media found most articulate and innovative, Sharma is also better known as one who could bring both Matrika Prasad Koirala and Bishweshar Prasad Koirala into readers' limelight. This is also unique in the sense that he was possibly one of the rare specimens of both brothers sharing the coveted distinction of becoming two of three Prime Ministers from the same family, fully trusted despite some reservations on the part of the latter about his legal acumen.
With the rare attribute of mastery in both Nepali and English, Sharma made a contribution by introducing important political and intellectual aspects of the lives of two brilliant Koirala brothers. It may also be noted that very few were privy to the fact that M.P. and B.P. balanced cordial personal relations with rivalries and even verbal, albeit sophisticated, fracas in terms of their political orientations and approaches, possibly an inevitable outcome of competing cerebral brains.
With fifteen pertinent chapters covering articles and interviews on over-all aspects of the domain of largely unstable Nepali politics, questionable style of governance, and equally flickering constitutional experiments, the book dedicated to his spouse, Niru alias Nirmala Sharma, has a foreword from former Chief Justice Kalyan Shrestha.
Describing Sharma as a lawyer of extraordinary calibre, vision, and integrity, Shrestha gives a short overview of Nepal's constitutional and legal history in the aftermath of the dawn of democracy in 1951. Shrestha portrays Sharma's manifold contributions in the form of his defence of people imprisoned on political grounds, his service in the realm of the Nepal Bar Association, and his pivotal role in landmark constitutional cases with "clear, powerful, and convincing" presentations.
He also highlights the author's arguments and opinions that have a far-reaching bearing on the foreign affairs of Nepal, including relations with our immediate neighbours, India and China.
The first chapter basically summarises Nepal's constitutional and political history, from Shri Teen Maharaj Prime Minister Padma Shumshere's first historical text issued in 1948 to the fifth constitution promulgated in 1990. Once hailed as one of the best constitutions in the world, it is ironic that the last document has already been replaced by two more constitutions, including the Interim Constitution, giving impressions to people uninitiated to the Nepali mode of life as if the fundamental law of our land is amenable to all types of changes like any ordinary legislation.
The second chapter examines Nepal's economic strength vis-à-vis existing relations with India, with an inherent exhortation that Nepali citizens should not be at the receiving end of an unrestricted flow of foreign workers, including those from India. This chapter can be taken as the imprint of Sharma's background as both a conscious economist and a practicing lawyer.
The third chapter is exclusively devoted to "B. P. Koirala: Philosopher, Statesman, and Guide," with a succinct summary of the multi-dimensional personality of the first popularly elected Prime Minister. He cites instances like Koirala's taking exception to Jawaharlal Nehru's rather unilateral interpretation of the 1950 Treaty, the apology expressed by Zhou Enlai on the Mustang incident, and the importance given to B.P. by Nikita Khrushchev in New York in 1960 as an eloquent testimony to his stature as a statesman.
Sharma clearly draws a dividing line between B.P.'s espousal of the political system and post-1990 practice, followed by his one-time supporters and lieutenants. He also portrays a considerable policy dichotomy between B.P. and his youngest brother, Girija Prasad Koirala, who assumed the country's leadership several times. Given his best possible contacts, knowledge, and even familial relations, I wish Sharma had given more input on B.P., who combined the rare attributes of a mass leader with literary talent.
The fourth chapter, Nepal and India: A Crisis in Co-existence, is both a study on the symptomatics of bilateral relations and Sharma's prescriptions, albeit indirect, for adequately clearing what he calls confusion on the part of Nepal as to what India really expects from us.
Chapters five to eight essentially deal with political aspects of Nepal, including elections and political stability. Likewise, chapter nine relates to constitutional reform, possibly an endless experiment in our case. The tenth and longest chapter in the book gives a cogent explanation of monarchy and democratic development.
Chapter thirteen on the role of leadership and political development is quite useful and even prophetic to scan Nepal's contemporary politics, the quality of leadership and statecraft, and the role of India. Chapter eleven, dealing with Nepal's Political Crisis: Regional Perspective, is worth reading in the context of Nepal's larger problem of a crisis of confidence in the leadership and Nepal's relations with neighbours.
Chapter twelve reveals the institutional presence and weaknesses in the way of controlling corruption. Chapter fourteen relates to nation's rights, specifically dealing with Nepal's riparian rights in terms of obvious discrepancies practiced by India in terms of the utilisation of Nepal's water resources.
The concluding chapter is rather futuristic or prospective in the sense that it deals with the contentious issue of a triangular relationship involving Nepal, India, and China. It is true that some aspects covered in the book are now a bit outdated in the context of the systemic change from monarchy to federal republic after 2008.
A quality publication both in terms of paper and content, special thanks should rightly and duly go to Dr. Mridu Sharma Chand, the author's daughter, Dr. Jan Sharma, Naresh Koirala, and Madhab Lal Maharjan for bringing out such a wonderful book.
(Bhattarai is a former Foreign Secretary, ambassador and author.)