Bhandari, Gurung in Prez race

- Binod Ghimire, Kathmandu

Oct 28, 2015-

CPN-UML Vice-chairperson Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Nepali Congress leader Kul Bahadur Gurung are running for the presidential election to be held on Wednesday. The ruling alliance has fielded Bhandari for the head of the state position while Gurung is the candidate from the main opposition.

Though Nepal Majdoor Kisan Party, too, had fielded its Central Committee member Narayan Maharjan for the post, he withdrew his candidacy later, leaving Bhandari and Gurung in the race. The NMKP, which is also represented in the High-level Political Committee of the ruling parties led by UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, had fielded its candidate expressing dissatisfaction over the UML’s “unilateral decision” to nominate Bhandari. However, the party backed off after a UML team led by party Chairman and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli urged NMKP Chairman Narayan Man Bijukchhe to support Bhandari.

Bhandari, 54, was proposed by Dahal while Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal Chairman Kamal Thapa, Madhesi Janadhikar Forum Nepal Chief Whip Yogendra Chaudhary, Rastriya Prajantra Party Parliamentary Party leader Deepak Bohara, CPN-ML chief CP Mainali and Rastriya Janamorcha Chairman Chitra Bahadur KC, among others coalition leaders, seconded her candidacy. Gurung was proposed by NC General Secretary Prakash Man Singh and seconded by another General Secretary Krishna Prasad Sitaula. So far, no other parties have extended their support to the NC candidate. If the support of the ruling alliance remains intact, Bhandari will easily beat Gurung. The 14-party ruling alliance has 334 votes against 299 votes needed to get the new President elected.

For Gurung, however, only 207 votes from the NC are guaranteed. As the Madhesi parties, which voted for Sushil Koirala during prime ministerial election, have decided not to participate in the presidential poll, Gurung’s votes could be much lower than what Koirala got two weeks ago.

Bhandari, the widow of the charismatic communist leader Madan Bhandari, joined politics while she was at school in Bhojpur.

She was little known until she registered her victory from Kathmandu Constituency-1 in the parliamentary by-election in 1994, defeating then NC President and former prime minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai. Victory against NC leader Daman Nath Dhungana from Kathmandu-2 in 1999 established her as an influential leader in the UML.

Bhandari, however, was defeated in the first Constituent Assembly election in 2008 while she was elected under the proportional representation quota to the second CA, which was transformed into the legislature after constitution promulgation last month.

Bhandari was elected as a vice-chairperson from the party’s eighth general convention in 2009 and retained the post in the ninth jamboree last year. If elected, she will create history as the first female head of the state of Nepal.

“Over a dozen parties have given me a historic responsibility and I will shoulder it sincerely,” said Bhandari, after registering her candidacy on Tuesday. She said her nomination also reflected the inclusive nature of the state.

Gurung, 80, joined politics as a freedom fighter during the people’s movement in 1949. Former General Secretary of the largest and oldest party of the country, he was jailed for four years for participating in the democratic movement. He was elected a lawmaker in the first CA from Ilam-3 and chaired the initial meetings of the Assembly as its oldest member. He was nominated to the second CA under the proportional representation system in 2013.

“My party has trusted me.

I hope to garner support from other parties as well,” he said.

According to the Parliament Secretariat, voting will start at 11am on Wednesday, and the results will be announced at 5pm on the same day. Unlike in the prime ministerial election, the President and the Vice President will be elected through secret ballot.

Though the Speaker of the Legislature-Parliament had scheduled Vice President’s election for Wednesday itself, it has been postponed till Saturday.

The ruling alliance has decided to field Nanda Kishor Pun for the VP post while the NC has nominated Amiya Kumar Yadav. Incumbent President Ram Baran Yadav and VP Paramananda Jha, elected in July 2008 for two-year terms, have already completed seven years in office.

Published: 28-10-2015 08:20

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