Laxmi Capital News
President's dinner party triggers political speculations

President BidyaDevi Bhandari's move to host a dinner party for the entire family of CPN(Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and other leaders of the leftalliance has triggered speculations in the political fraternity. Her “dinnerpolicy” has been construed as a strategy of lobbying for a second term as thepresident. 

Some people haveinterpreted the timing of her offer for the party to political leaders as amove to prolong her stay in office as she started hosting such parties just twomonths before her tenure ends. Speculations are rife also because KP SharmaOli, chairman of the CPN-UML, President Bhandari's former party, is reportedlyfor continuing her as the president for another term “because she has served inthe position just for two years whereas the first president remained in theposition for seven years.”  

Officials at thesecretariat at of the president's office, however, refuted that her dinnerparty was driven by any political intentions.

Bhandari'sinvitation to the Dahal family for dinner came at a time when Dahal-led MaoistCenter and CPN-UML have begun talks on finding candidates for key politicalposts such as president, vice-president, prime minister, speaker and ministersto be picked in the next few weeks and months. Since the alliance of the twoleft political parties - CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Center) - won majority seatsin the recently held elections, they are most likely going to form thegovernment and elect their candidates for the top political posts.

A team of 15members from the Dahal family including Dahal's spouse Sita, two daughters,son-in-laws, daughter in law and grand children were invited to the president'soffice for dinner on Friday evening. 

The President hadinvited a dozen of key leaders from the two left parties earlier on Sunday andhad also invited vice president Nanda Bahadur Pun's family earlier this week.

According toknowledgeable sources, though President Bhandari used to invite leaders andtheir spouses for lunch and dinner meetings, invitation for the entire familyfor dinner is a 'rare' practice in Sheetal Niwas. Hosting a party for theentire family was a rare practice also during the tenure of the first PresidentRam Baran Yadav, they said.

Surya Dhungel, whohad worked in the secretariat team of former President Ram Barayan Yadav forseven years said that such meetings should be interpreted based on the contextand motive. “We should study the objectives and context of such meetings. ThePresident can invite her relatives and friends and sometime leaders forpolitical consultations and meetings,” said Dhungel. 

With the term ofPresident Bhandari expected to expire in around two months, some politiciansand public have interpreted such meetings in the context of political partiessearching candidates for the top post. But, dismissing such speculations, pressadvisor to President Bhandari, Madhav Sharma said that the president's meetingwith the Dahal family was merely a personal dinner meeting with thefamily. 

“Dahal's familyhas been recovering from the grief of their son who died just a few months ago.The President invited them to express her sympathy to the family. Interpretingit as political lobbying is ill-intended,” Sharma said.  He further addedthat Bhandari has never expressed her interest in a second term to anyone. “Ifthe leaders find her deserving and realized her need yet again, they could askher about her interest but President Bhandari will never come forward forlobbying to repeat her term,” added Sharma. 

According tosources, UML leadership is divided over whether to give continuity to PresidentBhandari or replace her with a new face. UML Chair Oli is said to be in themood to give continuity to Bhandari, who has to leave the post within two yearsdue to constitutional provision of early election, while many others includinghis close aides have stood in favor of giving a chance to other leaders. 

Sources said UMLleaders including Ishwar Pokharel and Bishnu Paudel, who are close to Oli, haveurged the party chief to choose either Madhav Nepal or Jhalnath Khanal forpresidency arguing that the management of two leaders is crucial for the smoothfunctioning of the party.

They are of theview that delays in giving a dignified exit to Nepal and Khanal would widen thefactional divisions in the party and could possibly put the party establishmentin a difficult position after the planned merger with CPN (Maoist Center).Former speaker Subash Nembang, who also headed the Constituent Assembly, isalso said to be eyeing the post of President.

Source: My Republica, 14th January2018

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