Dr. Sasanka Koirala (aka Dr. Sashanka Koirala, डा. शशांक कोइराला in Nepali) is a retired ophthalmologist and a Nepali politician. In March 2016, he was elected General Secretary of Nepal’s biggest political party Nepali Congress.
Dr. Sasanka is the son of Nepal’s first democratically elected prime-minister and popular writer BP Koirala. Dr. Sasanka’s political views have been an issue of critical debate within the Nepali Congress Party since he has asked for a revision to Nepal’s way towards federalism, secularism and also the end of monarchy.
Early Life & Education
Sasanka Koirala was born on 24 October 1958 in Morang, Biratnagar. At the time of his birth, his father BP Koirala was contending for the first democratically organized parliament elections in Nepal. Nepali Congress’ success in the election made his father BP Koirala Nepal’s first democratically elected prime minister. However, when Sasanka was only 2, in 1960, BP was deposed from his post as Nepal’s Prime Minister through a coup d’etat by King Mahindra. Following the coup d’etat BP was arrested and sent to jail, while Sasanka was taken to Banaras, India by other family members.
Sasanka spent his childhood in exile in India and completed his primary, secondary and upper secondary education from there. Later, he pursued an MBBS degree and went on to specialise in ophthalmology, completing an MD from India.
Upon his return to Nepal, Sasanka worked for many years at Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital Maharajgunj and at BP Koirala Memorial Hospital in Dharan as an ophthalmologist, i.e. an eye specialist.
Though he spent many years in exile as a result of his father’s involvement in politics, Sasanka Koirala himself wasn’t active in politics until 1990. During the democratic movement of 1990, Sasanka partcipated in anti-regime protests in TU teaching hospital as a member of the professional wing of Nepali Congress. He was briefly arrested during Nepal’s first people’s movement in 1990 and second people’s movement in 2006.
In the 2008 Constituent Assembly election he was elected from the Nawalparasi-1 constituency, winning 17430 votes. He was the sole member of the Koirala family to get elected through the First Past the Post system. Though members of the Koirala family often choose Biratnagar as their election field, Sasanka reportedly went to Nawalparasi-1 because there were too many Koiralas contesting from Biratnagar and Nawalparasi-1 had a good organizational base for Nepali Congress.
Sasanka was elected as the Central Working Committee of Nepali Congress in 2010. In the 2013 Constituent Assembly election, Sasanka was once again elected from Nawalparasi-1.
In March 2016, Sasanka got elected as the General Secretary of Nepali Congress in the party’s 13th National General Convention. Sasanka received 1417 (46.95% of total ) votes beating Arjun Narasingha KC (who received 1017, 33.69% of total ) and Gagan Thapa (who received 584, 19.35% of total).
Personal Life & Health Issues
When Sasanka was studying to be a medical doctor in India, he met Suphatra Bhatia and they fell for each other. Suphatra was born to an Indian father and a Thai mother and was also doing an MBBS under an scholarship in the same college Susanka attended.
The couple later married in Nepal and both of them went on to specialize in their respective medical fields. While Sasanka became an ophthalmologist, Suphatra chose to be a gynecologist. As of 2016, Suphatra still works as a gynecologist surgeon at Om Hospital and Research Center in Kathmandu.
While in India, the couple stayed with Sasanka’s mother Sushila Koirala. Sasanka’s father BP Koirala died in Nepal in 1982 while they were still in India. Sasanka and Suphatra has a daughter who is married to a non-resident Nepali. As of 2016, Sasanka and Suphatra live in Tokha, Kathmandu.
On 6 July 2016, Koirala fell serious ill and was hospitalised. He was admitted at Om Hospital and Research Centre where her wife also worked. He was put into artificial respirator/ventilator for a few days and was treated for severe pneumonia, which was reportedly caused by food particles that entered inside his lungs when he was vomiting.
Media reports in the wake of his sickness claimed that Koirala was undergoing treatment for alcohol addiction before he was seriously ill.