Search for a non-party President: a real exercise or a time pass?

Recently, Nepali media outlets as well as social sites are full of information on discussions of senior leaders to elect president beyond political party.

Not being a politician does not mean they have no greed for political or constitutional post. Recent media reports suggest that at least three stalwarts have thrown their hats in the race-directly or indirectly – to occupy Shital Niwas when incumbent Bidhya Devi Bhandari retires in March.

None of the aspirants have spoken, but their political ambition is not hidden from public gaze.

Khil Raj Regmi, made a history, not essentially worth emulating when he broke the line separating executive from the judiciary or the system of check and balance and became the Prime Minister without resigning as the Chief Justice.

Regmi with his known contacts with Indian bureaucracy and a section of the Rastriya Swayam Sevak Sangh had an elaborate meeting with Care-taker Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.

The other name doing the round is Kalyan Shrestha, another former CJ who joined as the member of the International Commission of Jurists within months of his retiring from the apex court. Shrestha is often charged for packing the supreme court with his loyalists, and selectively trying to influence subjudice cases along with three other retired CJs—Min Bahadur Rayamajhi, Anup Raj Sharma and Sushila Karki. He is also active in advocacy of certain key policies, and works in collaboration with U. S. and E U agencies or the local NGOs funded by them.

Another person in the list is Anuradha Koirala, founder head of the Maiti Nepal who has twice tasted the political office. She was an Assistant State Minister in the council of Ministers headed by King Gyanendra after 2005 February, and then became provincial head for Bagmati (then province three) from the Nepali congress quota.

“No one knows how much of this is a political time pass, and how much is a serious exercise, but in a country that entertains outside interference in crucial appointment, nothing can be ruled out,” a senior leader of the Nepali congress said. “But it is very likely that their external patrons may have lobbied for these people,” he added.

Some social media users, in response to these news, have been adding their favourites from the public life to succeed Bhandari.

But political analysts say at a time, when political parties are finding it difficult to accommodate politicians in key position so that government formation process moves smoothly on ‘Give and Take basis,’ chances of non-partisan persons being considered for key posts on priority basis. Depending on who becomes the Prime Minister, issue of likely President and Vice President, House Speaker and Deputy Speaker enters the political sphere significantly.

A senior Congress leader who has expressed his ambition to be the Prime Minister said, “this time leaders and parties will prefer to the President than being the Prime Minister”. “While a President will have a five year term with him/her, a Prime Minister’s tenure will be uncertain given the composition of the House,” he added.

He further said that issues of ‘Lenden’ (give and take) will also decide which party will be heading the government in seven provinces, and deciding the President’s name from outside the party may not be possible beforehand.