KATHMANDU, June 27: Has the presidential etiquette changed lately?
This is the question of a lawmaker who recently had an opportunity to make a courtesy call on President Bidya Devi Bhandari. The lawmaker saw the president greeting with a Namaskar those who visited her, unlike what the lawmaker used to see before.
Having herself climbed the political ladder through leftist politics, a handshake was a common form of greeting to visitors in the past. President Bhandari used to greet with a handshake all those visiting her, by way of camaraderie.
However, those visiting the head of the state lately say this etiquette has changed. Nepali nationals are greeted with a Namaskar and foreigners are given a handshake. “The kind of protocol and etiquette the president demonstrates these days give one the acute impression that we still have in place the old Narayanhiti Palace and a monarch on the throne. A republican head of state is still a distant dream,” complained a sitting lawmaker, asking not to be named.
While the change in style of greeting is of little significance to the general public, the kinds of demands the President’s Office has begun making is irking lawmakers, who have been elected to represent the people at large. As the budget allocated for the President’s Office is also soaring each successive fiscal year, many have even begun seeing in the president the vestiges of the erstwhile absolute monarch.
The security detail and other paraphernalia associated with the president have seen no scaling back since the days of the monarchy, and the President’s Office has also caused some public outcry in other ways. The general public is forced to undergo huge hassles when vehicular traffic is brought to a complete halt for hours to make way for presidential motorcade.
Addressing parliament on Tuesday, lawmaker from Nepal Workers Peasants Party (NWPP) Prem Suwal said people had started complaining that the president of the republic of Nepal had become like a sovereign without a crown. He was of the opinion that ordinary people had failed to feel the republican setup in the true sense of the word.
In regard to changes in greetings formalities, the President’s Office denied that there were any changes. “I have not noticed any such changes. The president extends greetings that are appropriate to the context. For instance, there is a credentials presentation function Wednesday. The president shakes hands with visiting envoys,” said Sushil Pyakurel, advisor to the president.
“When Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited President Bhandari, there was an exchange of Namastes,” said Pyakurel.
While tabling a proposal to curtail the budget allocated for the president and vice president, lawmaker Suwal also complained that offices of the president and vice president had failed to duly honor people who sacrificed a lot to abolish the monarchy and institutionalize a republican system.
“The offices of the president and vice president have failed to respect those who rightfully deserve to be recognised for their contribution to the country. But a new tradition has been started of honoring family members [of the president] as was the practice during the monarchy,” Suwal complained.