Man wins race, crowned Nepal’s new ‘PM’

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : More than six months after Nepal’s prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned and warring political parties failed to name his successor even after 16 rounds of elections, the republic has got a mock “prime minister” – chosen after he won a race!

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Harendra Bhatt defeated 54 competitors to lift the title of the new “prime minister of Nepal” at a satirical programme organised by Youth Pressure Campaign (YPC), a Kathmandu-based forum that is seeking to shame the major political parties for their dismal performance.

On Friday, when the bickering parties failed yet again to form a new government within the deadline given to them by President Ram Baran Yadav and sought five days more, the YPC held a race from the parliament to Singha Durbar, the heart of the government, to pick a new leader for the country.

Ajay Babu Siwakoti, YPC president, said the Lig-Lig Race, re-enacted on the streets of the capital, was once a time-honoured way of choosing a new king in ancient Nepal.

More than 500 years ago, Drabbya Shah, a commoner with strength and speed, won the race in Gorkha district and went on to set up the Shah dynasty of kings that ruled Nepal for more than 250 years.

Cheered by onlookers, Friday’s race saw Harendra Bhatt breast the distance first, followed by Sher Bahadur Bhool.

Then in a mock ceremony, the group handed over a red chair to Bhatt, declaring him the new prime minister, while Bhool was announced the new deputy premier.

A young Weena Pun, who was the first woman to complete the race, was also honoured as the second deputy prime minister.

Taking a dig at Nepal’s heavy dependence on foreign aid, a proud Siwakoti said the race had not taken any money from any donors, but had raised over 1,000 Nepalese rupees from its own volunteers to host the event.

The public campaign came a day after a man slapped one of Nepal’s topmost political leaders and a prime ministerial contender at a public programme, accusing him and other politicians of ruining the country.

Jhalanath Khanal was attending a party programme in Itahari town in southern Sunsari district when Devi Prasad Regmi, regarded as a supporter of the leader’s Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, clambered up on the stage and slapped the communist leader on the face.

Irked by the parties’ failure to work in tandem even after four years, civil society members have been organising novel campaigns to shame them into delivering, like holding a funeral ceremony for all the 601 parliament members who failed to write a new constitution in three years.

Nepal’s president Friday extended the deadline given to the warring parties and asked them to form an all-party government by Wednesday.

However, given the parties’ past dubious records and the conflicts within themselves for leadership, the Wednesday deadline does not seem too promising.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])