Nepal’s parliament has elected vice-chairperson of ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), Bidhya Devi Bhandari, as the he Himalayan nation’s first female President.
Bhandari, who is an ardent supporter of women rights, secured 327 votes against opponent’s 214 votes, Parliament Speaker Onsari Gharti announced.
She is the second president of Nepal after the 240-year-old monarchy was abolished in 2008. The first president of the democratic Nepal was Ram Baran Yadav.
She is also deputy leader of the party led by Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli who was elected earlier this month. Oli is known to be very close to her.
Congratulating Bhandari on her victory, President of India, Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement:
“Please accept on behalf of the people and government of India and on my own behalf, warm felicitations on your election as president of Nepal.”
He added that India would extend all possible assistance and cooperation in accordance with the priorities and wishes of the government and people of Nepal.
The 54-year-old, who was defence minister from 2009 to 2011, is called as a no-nonsense person.
She was active in politics since her teenage. But she had to give it up when she was married to Madan Bhandari at the age of 21.
Madan Bhandari, who became the leader of the UML’s parliamentary party, was killed in a mysterious accident.
After her husband’s death, she joined politics full time. She led many protests against the authoritarian rule of King Gyanendra in 2006 and helped in restoring democracy in the country.
The appointment of Bhandari comes under the Nepal’s new constitution which was adopted last month. It says one-third of the members in parliament have to be women and either the President or Vice-President must be a woman.