Oct 14, 2015- Three names have propped up as President hopefuls from the ruling CPN-UML. Incumbent Speaker Subas Nembang, party Vice-chairperson Bidhya Bhandari and senior leader Jhala Nath Khanal are said to be vying for the country’s top post.
Party sources said the UML is likely to pick one of the three leaders as its presidential candidate for the election to be held after the Dashain festival is over. Coalition partner UCPN (Maoist) has decided not to claim the position.
Khanal has reportedly been asking Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to honour a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ reached between the two during the UML general convention last year when Oli supposedly pledged fielding Khanal as the party’s presidential candidate.
Oli had narrowly edged out former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal to become the party chairman with Khanal’s backing. “There will be no difference between you and Sushilji if you violate the agreement,” a UML leader quoted Khanal as telling PM Oli, referring to Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala.
Sources close to Oli said Nembang and Bhandari have edge over Khanal so he has less possibility of being fielded in the race. They gave two major reasons for Khanal’s bleak chances: first, he represents the so called upper caste amid calls for priority to someone from the under-represented sections of society; and second, according to a section of leaders from the party, naming an ex-prime minister as the President sets a bad precedent.
“Either Bhandari or Nembang may be fielded from our party [in the election],” said UML deputy spokesperson Surya Thapa.
Apart from his crucial role in constitution promulgation, Nembang represents the Janajati community. The party believes that Nembang could be acceptable for other parties also for his personality.
As a close confidante of PM Oli, Bhandari is believed to be a front runner. Widow of the party’s charismatic leader Madan Bhandari, she has made significant contribution to the party. “She will be easily endorsed as the party’s candidate if she wishes,” said party leaders. According to sources, the Maoist party has also advised PM Oli to field Bhandari for the sake of inclusiveness.
If the UML indeed gets it candidate as the new President, the largest party Nepali Congress, which had both the PM’s and President’s posts, will get no major position this time around. The two largest parties ended their 18-month alliance on Saturday with their decision to field their separate PM candidates. President Ram Baran Yadav is due to end his seven-year term that spanned two Constituent Assemblies.
Published: The Kathmandu Post (Oct 14,2015)