The former Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has died in Kathmandu, his aides and state TV say.
Mr Koirala, 86, served four terms as PM with the Nepali Congress Party and led protests that brought down King Gyanendra's authoritarian rule.
Thousands of supporters had gathered outside his daughter's house where he was taken after being in hospital for several days.
In 1975 while working for the International Red Cross in Nepal I met his eldest brother Matrika Prasad Koirala (photo left) at the family home in Biratnagar. Matrika, or MP as he was known to many, talked to me under the shade of a Banyan tree in his garden about his family and his two famous brothers. I recall him telling me his two brothers were in exile in India at that time. Matrika Prasad himself served as prime minister in 1951–52 and 1953–55 and Bisheshwar Prasad Koirala from 1959 until King Mahendra overthrew the government in December 1960. Bisheshwar Prasad and Girija Prasad were subsequently imprisoned. After his release in 1967, Girija Prasad went into exile with other leaders of the Nepali Congress Party (NCP) and did not return to Nepal until 1979.
Matrika Prasad became Vice President of the Nepal Red Cross in 1973, and when I spent some days in Biratnagar in 1975, he was a very active leader of the district Red Cross, doing a lot for the poorer people of that area. He use to come to Kathmandu regularly and I enjoyed meeting him. Often he told me of his youth in Biratnagar, where he was a union leader and championed for the rights of oppressed workers. He also told me of his great respect for Mahatma Gandhi, a man he and his brothers modelled their early life on.
However, dark days for Nepal started from 2000, during Girija Prasad Koirala's third term when the Nepali Congress government became embroiled in corruption and the Maoist insurgency, started in 1996, began gathering momentum.It was also this time that the then King Birendra and nine more members of the royal family were killed in a shocking massacre in the royal palace, a turning point for Nepal's monarchy. Koirala was forced to resign in 2001 when the army, called in to combat the Maoists, refused to heed his command.Though his protege Sher Bahadur Deuba became the new prime minister, a leadership tussle between the two led to a vertical split in the largest party in Nepal that eventually contributed to its humiliating defeat to the Maoists in the 2008 elections.In 2005, Koirala was chosen as their undisputed leader by the political parties after the then king Gyanendra followed in his father Mahendra's footsteps and tried to seize power with a military-backed coup.Consistently rejecting offers by the king to join the royal cabinet, Koirala led a coalition of parties in a peaceful protest against it whose biggest achievement was reaching an understanding with the Maoist guerrillas.The united protest led to the fall of the royal regime in 2006 when Koirala became prime minister again and held the first historic constituent assembly election in 2008 to pave the way for a new constitution.However, the leadership during crisis became tarnished during peace and Koirala's Nepali Congress fared badly in the election with most of his family members, including his daughter Sujata, losing.He also earned the wrath of the victorious Maoists by delaying handing over power to them, which led to the latter opposing his bid to become Nepal's first president.The Maoist government also saw a covert opposition by Koirala's party to the pledge to merge the Maoist army with the state army and eventually led to the collapse of the shortlived Maoist government in 2009.During his last days in politics, Koirala also faced revolt from his own partymen, who had been urging him to relinquish his grip on the party.The rise of his daughter to the post of foreign minister and deputy prime minister also came under attack.
I think a summary is best left to one of the world's greatest statesmen, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who expressed condolences. and said "Koirala spent his entire political life championing the cause of the people..."
Mr Koirala's body will lie in state at the national stadium on Sunday, with his funeral later in the day at the Pashupatinath Hindu temple in Kathmandu, his aide Gokarna Poudel said, according to AFP news agency.