When Bidya Devi Bhandari was elected the president of nepal, people inside and outside of Nepal saw a sign of progress. For the first time in its history, Nepal had appointed a woman as head of state and everyone, especially women, was hopeful about what this meant to them.
The President Women Upliftment Program, started by Bhandari, did something good in terms of empowering women through social and economic means. The program also focused on increasing access to education, health, and social services, eliminating the trafficking of women and girls, and ending bad social practices and gender-based violence. This program has been an important aspect of her tenure.
However, during her time in Sheetal Niwas as the country’s president, Bidya Devi Bhandari has also faced criticism, perhaps more than praise.
The partisan president
The most serious accusation against President Bhandari is her inability to overcome partisan beliefs and pressure from her (former) party leadership. The first incident related to this was when she nominated a member of the National Assembly, who was a political appointee.
On February 9, 2018, the government headed by Sher Bahadur Deuba recommended the appointment of Krishna Prasad Poudel, Gopal Kumar Basnet and Chandani Joshi as members of the National Assembly. However, President Bhandari did not implement this recommendation for more than two weeks.
After the Deuba-led government was replaced by KP Sharma Oli on February 20, 2018, Bhandari promptly approved the recommendation making Yuba Raj Khatiwada, Ram Narayan Bidari and Bimala Rai Paudyal members of the National Assembly.
After being elected president, there is a practice of resigning from their respective parties. Bhandari did too, but in many cases he made decisions in favor of his party, the UML.
To settle the dispute within the unified Nepalese Communist Party (NCP) formed by the merger of the UML and the Maoist Center, the leaders were called for collective and individual meetings by Bidya Devi Bhandari Bhandari. During that time, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal faced off against KP Sharma Oli. To settle the dispute, he even called the leader Bamdev Gautam at Sheetal Niwas to settle the dispute.
After the President urged Oli to reconcile, UML leader Bhim Rawal publicly criticized the move, stating that Bhandarai was violating the President’s dignity and prestige by supporting one side in an internal issue.
President Bhandari talked to Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhala Nath Khanal, Bishnu Poudel and others to help resolve the dispute. According to the sources, Bhandari also called all the members of the former NCP secretariat and talked about the party dispute.
During the NCP dispute, both Oli and Dahal knowingly or unknowingly gave space to the president.
The internal dispute of the NCP took another turn when the Supreme Court dissolved the party unit over a dispute over the name of the party. Even after that, he continued to support the Oli-led government. After the split of the NCP, Oli dissolved the House of Representatives. Ignoring constitutional provisions, Bhandari confirmed the decision to dissolve the chamber and announced the dates of the early elections. Bhandari was heavily criticized for this as the The Supreme Court reversed the decision calling it unconstitutional. once again dissolved the Chamber and Bhandari supported the movement again, but the movement was once again annulled by the Supreme Court.
Prior to the dissolution of the House of Representatives, Sher Bahadur Deuba had claimed the support of 149 legislators for the post of Prime Minister, but Speaker Bidya Devi Bhandari had refused to appoint him on the grounds that she did not have enough support.
Bhandari also supported UML chief KP Sharma Oli when he tried to fill 52 seats in various constitutional commissions bypassing the Parliamentary Hearing Committee.
Oli had issued an ordinance that allowed the Constitutional Council to call a meeting even with three members, and in such a situation, a decision could be made with a majority (two members).
In accordance with the aforementioned ordinance, the town hall meeting held on December 15, 2020 had recommended 32 people for appointment to constitutional bodies such as the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA), the Electoral Commission, and the National Rights Commission. Humans, among others. . Those recommended persons were appointed to their respective positions without a parliamentary hearing and have since been sworn in by the President.
pleasure in power
Bidya Devi Bhandari as president had limited constitutional rights. His main function was to authenticate the decisions of the government, as well as the bills approved by the legislature. But, looking at his seven years in office, he behaved differently depending on who was in charge of the government.
During her first term, President Bhandari suspended the medical education ordinance for a long time without any reason. The government during the time was led by Deuba.
Many criticized his move. After the government opposed her measure, she approved it and sent it back to the lower house.
On April 21, 2020, the President issued an ordinance related to political parties. After coming to a head in the dispute between the then ruling Communist Party of Nepal, he revoked the ordinance four days later. Criticism was leveled that repealing the ordinance after just four days was inappropriate.
On the same day, 83 lawmakers attempted to petition President Bidya Devi Bhandari saying that a special session should be convened after the issuance of the Constitutional Council-related ordinance. The letter went unregistered even as NCP leaders Bhim Rawal and Pampha Bhusal waited for more than five hours.
According to the Rawal leader, Hari Paudel, the secretary of the President’s Office, consulted the President and said that he would come with the registration number. But then, he turned off his phone and disappeared.
Nepali Congress leader Pradeep Poudel, satirically speaking about the performance of the government, told a parliamentary meeting on February 15: “The country needs a rubber stamp president who keeps the stamp at home and hides the secretary if he is necessary,” he said.
This comes as Bidya Devi Bhandari has, time and time again, passed ordinances introduced by the Oli led government as compared to the Deuba led government.
President Bhandari has remained silent on the citizenship bill passed twice by both houses of the federal parliament. The president, who is considered ceremonial, only signs the executive and administrative decision if she deems it appropriate and has the power not to sign it.
The Citizenship Bill, after being approved by both the House of Representatives and the National Assembly, was currently sent for verification by President Agni Sapkota on July 31, 2022.
However, on August 14, 2022, Bhandari returned the bill to the lower house with a 15-point suggestion. The returned citizenship bill was endorsed by both houses and sent back to the president on September 5.
According to the constitution, you had to verify the invoice within 15 days. But not her. He also didn’t say why he didn’t check the bill. The case against the president for her role in this is still sub judice in court.
Review role now
After reviewing the term of Bidya Devi Bhandari, there is a lawsuit in the newly elected parliament to discuss the powers that the president has.
Speaking at the House of Representatives meeting on February 15, Pradeep Yadav of the Janata Samajbadi Party of Nepal (JSPN) said that the president had failed to certify the bills sent by the Federal Parliament twice, including the bill on citizenship.
“It is necessary to discuss the president’s veto in parliament,” Yadav said.
Nepali Congress Senior Leader Ram Chandra Paudel also says the role of the president should be clearly defined in the coming days.
“We must use this as a learning experience and carry out our work,” says Paudel.
Santosh Pariyar, chief whip of the Rastriya Swatantra Party, says there is a place for politics and that place is not the office of the president.
Rajendra Dahal, communication adviser to President Ram Baran Yadav (Bidya Devi Bhandari’s predecessor), says Nepal’s constitution provides that the president “does not make mistakes.”
“It means that the president is above everything else. But what has happened recently has raised a lot of concerns about the role of the president at the public level,” says Dahal.
Former ambassador Vijaya Kanta Karna says the role of the president should be discussed in parliament.
“The parties gave President Bidya Devi Bhandari the opportunity to get involved in politics. To prevent this from happening, new laws must be written about what the president can and cannot do,” says Karna.
Due to the lack of laws regarding the powers of the president, the current president can perform actions such as convening various government agencies for discussion, holding talks with army generals, and giving exclusive interviews to foreign media without seeking the government’s permission.
“The current system is an example of the dual rule in Nepal. It’s like what happened during the Panchayat era when the country was ruled by both the palace and the government,” says Karna.