Was Koirala’s illness ‘kept in dark’ for political expediency?

- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Feb 10, 2016-

The sudden demise of Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala has prompted disbelief in many, leading some in the Sher Bahadur Deuba faction of the party to conclude that Koirala’s illness was kept secret for political expediency.

The rival NC faction accuses the party establishment of covering up Koirala’s deteriorating health condition with an aim to win the upcoming General Convention where Koirala was expected to stand for second time as the party president.

Koirala was treated at the New York-based Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for lung cancer. After his follow-up in September last year, his personal doctors and close aides had claimed that it was fully cured. Even Koirala often said publicly that he had “defeated” cancer. He had dropped hints that he would contest for the party chief during the convention scheduled for next month.

But his death in the wee hours of Tuesday raised doubts of the NC leaders 

falsely claiming that he was cured of cancer solely as a strategy to give the party rank and file a message that he was healthy enough to lead the party once again.

Koirala’s personal physician Dr Karbir Nath Yogi blamed pneumonia for the death though he had developed interstitial lung disease and tuberculosis. Leaders in the rival NC faction even claimed that the US-based hospital had “never” said Koirala was fully cured of cancer. They also questioned why he was not taken to hospital when he was critically ill.

“President’s [Koirala’s] illness was concealed by his aides who wanted to showcase him as a healthy figure for their own benefit in the convention,” said NC lawmaker Ram Hari Khatiwada. He claimed that his close aides knew about the seriousness of the disease but recklessly endangered Koirala’s health in the hope that it would not be fatal before the convention.

Dr Yogi and leaders close to Koirala, however, rubbished the claims saying that there was no intention to hide his illness. “It’s a baseless claim. Cancer had no role in the death,” he said, adding that he had booked bed No 601 at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital. Koirala was not admitted as there was “much improvement” on Monday.

The doctor said Koirala had developed lungs infection five weeks ago and was given antibiotics which had brought about “good improvement”. He also had pneumonia and was on oxygen support while at home. The doctors had advised him to keep away from outsiders but his meeting with party cadres had only increased due to the convention.

Koirala had not eaten anything on Sunday but he had two bowls of gruel (jaulo), which was read as an improvement in health, said Dr Yogi. “Therefore, we did not feel the urgency of admitting him to hospital,” he claimed.

NC leader Minendra Rijal, who is close to Koirala, also dismissed the charges. He claimed that his weakness caused by multiple ailments and his age led to the 

unexpected death. “There is no reason for his illness to be hidden,” he said. “He had a peaceful death. Let’s not politicise it.”

Published: 10-02-2016 08:56

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