Kathmandu: Nona Koirala, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's sister-in-law and Nepal's most influential woman, is "critically" ill, battling jaundice, kidney problems and other infections in hospital, media reports said.
Nona, 75, has been admitted to Shahid Gangalal National Heart Centre, the same hospital where the octogenarian premier himself had stayed for treatment and observation for nearly a week last year.
The white-haired, diminutive Nona is the widow of Keshav Koirala, an elder brother of the prime minister, and a senior member of his Nepali Congress party.
While the ailing premier has visited her at least thrice, several ministers and senior leaders of the party have also gone to the hospital to enquire after her health.
She is regarded as having great influence on the premier and her son, Dr Shekhar Koirala, has had a meteoric rise in the party in the last couple of years, which has reportedly caused friction in the Koirala household.
Koirala's only child Sujata, who was nominated to parliament this month, yields much less influence, party sources say.
Nona Koirala had been under house arrest along with Koirala in 2005 after King Gyanendra seized power with the help of the army.
During the king's direct 15-month rule, Queen Mother Ratna was regarded as the most powerful woman in Nepal.
Prior to that, during King Birendra's reign, Queen Aishwarya was the most powerful woman in the kingdom. She reportedly exerted great influence on the king and her bitter opposition to her son, Crown Prince Dipendra's desire to marry a girl of his own choice is regarded as one of the factors that led to the infamous palace massacre in June 2001.
Unlike the presidential wives in the US, the prime ministerial wives in Nepal however have mostly kept a low profile and remained out of limelight.
Only deposed prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's wife Dr Arjoo Deuba came closest to the image of an active first lady, campaigning to get her husband released after he was jailed on a graft charge during the king's regime.