Senior leader Jhala Nath Khanal and former Speaker Subas Nembang were other probable candidates for the top position. However, when PM and party Chairman KP Oli proposed Bhandari’s name, senior leaders attending the meeting including Khanal endorsed her as the candidate unanimously. “While choosing Bhandari, we considered the spirit and provisions of the newly adopted constitution, and her restless struggle and sacrifices,” said UML General Secretary Ishwor Pokhrel.
Before the decision, Oli met UCPN (Maoist) Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal at the PM’s official residence in Baluwatar where the two leaders made an understanding to pick the Vice President candidate from the UCPN (M) based on their earlier power-sharing deal.
The Maoist party is likely to field Nanda Kishor Pun for the Vice President’s post. Pun, a deputy commander of the disbanded People’s Liberation Army, had contested the second CA poll from Kathmandu-4 but was defeated by Gagan Thapa of Nepali Congress.
Bhandari, widow of the charismatic leader Madan Bhandari, has been active in politics since her school days. She came to limelight after the untimely death of her husband in a road accident, registering her victory from Kathmandu in the parliamentary election in 1994. She won again in 1999. Bhandari was defeated in the first CA polls while the party elected her in the proportional representation quota in the second CA, which was transformed into the legislature after constitution promulgation last month.
After the NC fielded its candidate in the PM election against a “gentlemen’s agreement” of supporting the UML in the PM race, the UML, the UCPN (M) and the RPP-Nepal formed an alliance allocating key positions among them.
Based on the agreement, Maoist leader Onsari Gharti and RPP-Nepal leader Ganga Prasad Yadav were elected as Speaker and deputy Speaker respectively.
Though the main opposition has also decided to contest the presidential election, it is yet to name its candidate. Sources said the NC is likely to field Kul Bahadur Gurung.
A meeting of the Congress office bearers on Monday entrusted party President Sushil Koirala, senior leader Sher Bahadur Deuba and Vice-president Ram Chandra Poudel to decide the candidate. Top leaders have reportedly asked Gurung to be prepared for the race.
It is still not clear whether the NC will field its own Vice President candidate. NC leader Dilendra Prasad Badu said the senior leaders would decide the President candidate by Tuesday.
Earlier, the NC was preparing to recommend incumbent President Ram Baran Yadav or former Chairman of Council of Ministers Khilraj Regmi if there was consensus among the parties. However, both Yadav and Regmi responded that they would only be consensus candidates, not majority candidates of a particular party.
A section of NC leaders have also proposed Man Bahadur Bishwokarma as the party’s candidate. Though the NC urged the UML to support its candidate in the presidential race, the second largest party replied that it would cooperate only if the NC was ready to join the government.