Published On: March 14, 2023 02:00 PM NPT By: Bal Krishna Adhikari
KATHMANDU, March 14: “I will show the difference between the head of state in a monarchy and that in a republic. I will not do anything so as to make the common people suffer.” This is what the then leader of the Nepali Congress, Ram Chandra Paudel, said while asking for votes to be elected as the third president of the country on March 9. Paudel, who was elected as the President by the Federal Parliament with overwhelming votes, assumed the responsibility of the country's highest post of President on Monday. Paudel took the oath of office and secrecy from Acting Chief Justice Hari Krishna Karki amid a special ceremony organized at the President’s office at Sheetal Niwas on Monday afternoon. With that, Paudel took over the responsibility of the president by bidding farewell to the outgoing president Bidya Devi Bhandari.
The biggest challenge for Paudel, who became the third president after the establishment of the federal democratic republic in the country on May 28, 2008, will be to walk the talk. The first and second presidents have been criticized for not living within the constitutional limits and for imitating the monarchs of the past. After the end of the 240-year long monarchy, the common people had a general understanding that the head of state (president) of the country would be normal and simple. However, even after the country became a republic, the presidents have been following the working style of the kings of the past. They were severely criticized for causing suffering to the people by blocking the road for hours in the name of the presidential carcade. Whether the new President Paudel continues the tradition of the past or changes it when he attends public events will be his first test as the president.
Paudel was active in the Nepali Congress for six decades. He once led a faction within the party. For Paudel, who has risen to the post of president, the challenge is not to belong to a faction within his old party, but to belong to everyone. The first and second presidents have been accused of failing to become a president common to everyone. Due to the negligence of the constitution and the law for the sake of party interests, the term of both presidents could not be without controversy.
The first President Ram Baran Yadav overturned the decision of the Council of Ministers and reinstated the then Chief of Army Staff Rukmangat Katwal who was sacked by the government. At the request of 22 parties other than the Maoists who led the government at that time, Yadav took a political decision and overturned the decision of the Council of Ministers. The then Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal resigned from the post stating that it was a practice of dual government. After resigning as the prime minister, Dahal did not return to Sheetal Niwas for five months to meet President Yadav. Even when he eventually did, the Maoists’ view of President Yadav did not become positive. The government and the political parties were not satisfied with the role of the then President Yadav in the process of making and promulgating the constitution.
The second president Bidya Devi Bhandari has been accused of working in favor of a faction within her former party CPN-UML. She has been accused of going against the constitution and the law rather than working as the protector and guardian of the constitution. After Bhandari endorsed the recommendation of the KP Oli-led government to dissolve the House of Representatives, Vice President Nanda Bahadur Pun did not even attend some of the programs held at Sheetal Niwas. The second decision to dissolve the House of Representatives was annulled by the Supreme Court. According to the court's order, Bhandari, who appointed and swore in Sher Bahadur Deuba as the Prime Minister, expressed her displeasure publicly without even congratulating him.
The president who comes from a political background should present himself as the guardian of the constitution and implement the recommendations of the Council of Ministers. But Bhandari had to face the accusation that she not only interfered in the expansion of the government and the constitutional organs, but also in the internal politics of her former party.
The new President Paudel has the challenge of fulfilling the responsibilities of the head of state within the party and constitutional framework. Article 61(2) of the constitution stipulates that the president shall be the head of state of Nepal. It is mentioned that s/he will perform his/her duties in accordance with this constitution and federal laws. Clause 3 of the same article also states that the President shall promote the national unity of Nepal. Paudel should be able to become the president of not only the leaders and activists of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP) and the Nepal Workers and Peasants Party that did not participate in the voting, but also of the people associated with the party representing the sentiments of that party. President Paudel should also be able to stand by the side of the disgruntled indigenous people, Madheshis, women and Dalits who expressed their displeasure when the constitution was promulgated by the Constituent Assembly.
Although the system has changed, there has been no change in the condition of the people. At a time when the common people's distaste for the current leadership and governance system is intensifying, the new president should not only protect and promote the federal democratic republic, but also convey hope and trust to the people. The president can give positive suggestions in favor of the country, the people and the change rather than interfering in the work of the government. As Nepali Congress General Secretary Gagan Thapa said, the president should not be a slouch in politics, but the president should be able to develop the tradition of taking a 'brief' from the country's executive head and giving suggestions.
Paudel, who became the third president of Nepal for the fourth term after the establishment of the federal democratic republic, should not learn anymore, but should be able to move forward in the way of correcting the wrong traditions of the past. The long-term future of the new constitution with a federal democratic republic will be ensured only if the president is not a 'white elephant' for the country but can be developed as a common institution for the people. Even though he is a constitutional president, the president has implicit authority as the head of the country for the benefit of the country and its people. The president should not seek to gain power by abusing it, but the president should take the lead in bringing about changes in the system and people's conditions.
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