KATHMANDU, July 4: Bala Bahadur Rai, who fought for the cause of democracy for the last six decades and helped rid the country of Rana oligarchy, Panchayat regime and autocratic rule of the last monarch Gyanendra Shah, died Sunday afternoon. He was 90.
Senior Nepali Congress leader and former minister Rai passed away at 4:10 pm while undergoing treatment at TU Teaching Hospital, Maharajgunj. He died of kidney failure, according to doctors involved in his treatment.
Rai was admitted at the hospital following complications in kidneys on Thursday. He was kept at Critical Care Unit (CCU) at the hospital.
A large number of NC leaders and activists and well-wishers reached the hospital in the evening following the death.
NC Acting President Sushil Koirala, Senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba, Vice Presidents Ram Chandra Poudel and Gopal Man Shrestha, General Secretaries KB Gurung and Bimalendra Nidhi, the party´s CWC members and ministers were among those reaching the hospital.
Talking to mediapersons, NC Acting President Koirala said Rai´s demise was a big loss to the party. “He was committed to democracy,” Koirala said. “He used to worry about the fate of the country and democracy despite his ailing health. NC has lost a true and honest democracy fighter."
According to NC, Rai´s body will be kept at NC headquarters at Sanepa for two hours beginning 8 am on Monday for paying him last respects. The body will then be flown to his home village Moli in Okhaldhunga for burial. NC Vice President Prakash Man Singh and another leader Bal Bahadur KC are scheduled to attend the burial function.
Born in 1977 BS, Rai joined NC politics by becoming a part of the Mukti Sena, an army formed by NC to fight against Rana establishment in 1948 -- three years before the abolition of 104-year old Rana oligarchy. He was later elected as member of parliament from then Eastern Three Number constituency during an election held 1959.
His political career did not go straight, though. Rai was among those who were put behind bars after King Mahendra dissolved the first democratically elected government led by Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, banned political parties and imposed party-less rule on December 15, 1960.
He lived in exile in Jayanagar, India, after being released a year later and returned home following a government to grant him amnesty in 1968. He was then involved in underground politics to abolish the Panchayati regime.
Then Panchayati authorities arrested him again in 1974 and announced capital punishment with property confiscation in connection with Timurbote incident in Solukhumbu district. He was luckily saved as the capital punishment decision was not implemented.
Rai worked actively in favor of democracy during the referendum held to choose between reformed Panchayati rule and multiparty democracy in 1980, popular movement of 1990 that toppled party-less Panchayati system, and the April 2006 movement against king´s autocratic rule. Notwithstanding with his age, late Rai could be seen at the forefront in all democratic movements.
Late Rai was elected twice from Okhaldhunga Constituency number 2 in the 1991 general elections and the 1994 mid-term elections. He was a Central Working Committee member of the party.
In his capacity as a senior leader of the party, late Rai had served as acting prime minister for 19 times during the governments led by Girija Prasad Koirala and Sher Bahadur Deuba, besides holding various ministerial portfolios. He also acted as speaker for three times as the eldest member of the parliament.
Late Rai is survived by two sons and two daughters. His eldest son is the president of NC Okhaldhunga district committee and the youngest son is in government service. One of his daughters Pramila Rai is a Constituent Assembly member from NC.