The Federal Republic of Nepal now has Ram Chandra Poudyal as its third President. The Presidential role in Nepal is a ceremonial one; however, looking at the political battle that was staged in Nepal before the filing of the candidate, one wonders why a ceremonial post was even able to topple one coalition government and form another. The constitution has provisions for certain discretionary powers for the Presidential role, especially during the promulgation of new laws, Acts or amendments, and advice the executive power, among others. The turmoil that happened before fielding the Presidential candidate leads to a speculation that instead of taking neutral stands the President may be pressurised to favour the party of his/her origin.
However, looking at Poudyal’s clean role as a politician so far, this author wishes him a good, impartial and successful presidential term which will help him rise above party politics and set an exemplary leadership role. The total number of voters for the presidential election in Nepal is 882, including 332 members of the parliament and 550 members from provincial assemblies of the seven provinces. The 78-year-old veteran politician secured a comfortable victory over his rival and UML candidate Subash Chandra Nemwang by securing votes of 214 lawmakers of the Federal Parliament and 352 votes from provincial assembly members.
The septuagenarian Poudyal, who has a long political history, is respected more than most politicians of his generation who have shown the passion for political power and prime seats mainly because of his soft nature and his incorruptibility. He has been a loyal Nepali Congress (NC) party member throughout his life until the day he filed as the Presidential candidate which has to be on an independent candidacy. As a NC politician, he was appointed Vice President of NC from the Tanahun district committee, which is his home town, in 1980. He became the General Secretary of NC in 2005, Vice President of the Party in 2007 and acting president of NC in 2015. He contested and was elected to the House of Representatives from Tanahun district for the first time in 1991. Since then, he has been representing his district in the parliament.
During this phase he has served as Nepal’s Deputy Prime Minister, cabinet minister, and speaker before recently being elected as the President. Along with several Nepali people he has been part of the struggle against the monarchy in the country. Record says he spent 12 years in prison as he was an active protestor against the autocratic Panchayat regime 9161-1990). Poudyal has served the country as the Minister of Local Development in 1991, as Minister of Agriculture in 1992, Speaker from 1994 to 1999, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home and Minister for Information and Communication from 1999 to 2002. Again, during 2007 to 2008, he served as the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Peace and Reconstruction. He was elected Parliamentary Party leader of NC and leader of the main opposition in Parliament from 2008 to 2013.
President Poudyal is a very well-known name in Nepali politics. He is also known to have maintained a simple life style but was committed to the country’s development and progress. He has manged to keep himself away from scandals and personal greed and corruption. It is a known fact in Nepal that he did struggle to get the top executive position of the country as a Prime Minister, but because of the different factions withing NC, mainly the Koirala and the Deuba factions, this position was not possible for him.
In the NC, he is indeed the right person for this position. Poudyal is expected not to bow down to pressure from anyone if he thinks that their policies are not right. During the last two tenures of President Bidya Devi Bhandary, she took some controversial stances which created a backlash on her image and position. Being an UML cadre for all her life before becoming the President, President Bhandary was accused several times to take her stance based on the guidance of the UML chair KP Sharma Oli and was known to take decisions which were in the interests of her previous party. As a President of Nepal, the individual needs to take decisions in a neutral manner with no partisan favours for any party, community, cast class or religion. It remains to be seen if Poudyal serves as president taking into view the nation’s welfare at all times and is not pressured by the parochial party interests.
The people are now expecting that new President will rise above party and personal petty politics and serve the nation as an ideal head of state. Looking at Poudyal’s role as a politician and his personal lifestyle, the majority of the Nepali population is hopeful he will fulfil his role as per the spirit of constitution. He is expected to perform his ceremonial role to perfection and whenever he needs to veto or give his advice to the executive powers of the country he will do so using his experience as a politician but as a true and honest citizen who has risen to the position of President. This way he will also set an example of true leadership in the country.
(Sharma is a journalist and women rights advocate. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter handle: @NamrataSharmaP)