Nepal’s vice president Nanda Bahadur Pun is frustrated. For the past seven years, he has felt disrespected by various government bodies, private organisations and even the parliament.
“They send me an invitation, but they don’t even get the address right. How careless is that,” he says. “Even the parliament sends a normal staff member to invite me to events when according to the law, I should have been invited by the speaker, deputy speaker or the general secretary of the parliament.”
After serving two terms, Pun is leaving the Green House. And during his time, he has seen it all which has made him realise how poorly a person who is the vice president of the country has been treated.
The ignored institution
After Nepal was declared a republic in 2008, the country got a president as the head of state and a vice president to perform the duties in the absence of the president. While the president has got a permanent home and office at Sheetal Niwas, the vice president on the other hand has not been fortunate enough.
Contrary to the president, the vice president’s office and residence were in different places initially. The office was in the building of the Election Commission while their residence was further away in Lainchaur.
The first vice president Paramananda Jha had complained to the government that he had found it difficult as neither his residence nor his office was spacious enough. Jha left the office on October 27, 2015, and was replaced by Pun, who had the same issues.
Pun, like Jha, also had to work and live in different places which he said was inconvenient. He also complained and the government then found a spacious place previously housed by the Social Welfare Council, painted it green and called it the Green House.
Pun moved there on May 1, 2019.
Now, as the vice president has a spacious building to live and work in, people are debating if his jurisdiction should also be expanded as many people claim he does not have enough jobs to do.
But, the constitution of Nepal does not allow that to happen.
The role of the vice president, according to the constitution, is to fulfil the roles of the president when they are not in the country. If the president is active, the vice president has nothing to do.
Vice President Pun has engaged himself in activities such as participating in the programs held by social organisations. According to the Vice President’s Office, Pun has played the role of acting president 12 times in the past seven years.
Since the vice president does not have much to do, many people have suggested their role be broadened by making them the chair of the National Assembly and chancellor of the universities.
Cordiality and controversies
During the past seven years, Vice President Pun has always acted cordially. When KP Sharma Oli dissolved the House, Pun even questioned the move and condemned Oli publicly. Following that, Oli and Pun even had a verbal argument during a Democracy Day programme at Tundikhel.
“Are you trying to play politics?” Oli asked Pun, according to a leader who attended the programme.
Oli further told Pun why he was trying to oppose him to which Pun questioned Oli if as prime minister, he could do as he pleased.
“If you’re trying to oppose me, I’ll remember this in the future,” Oli told Pun.
TV footage also showed Oli and Pun going at it against one another.
Oli, then, during a gathering in Biratnagar, accused Pun of being politically active.
“The vice president is speaking against the government. Can he go on making public remarks about the government?” he said.
People close to Pun say he did what his post required him of doing at a specific time.
“The constitution has given him the responsibility to do that as what Oli had done was unconstitutional,” says a leader close to Pun.
What he did was proved right when the Supreme Court reinstated the House and deemed Oli was wrong.
From active politics to passive position
Nanda Bahadur Pun’s political career has been a long one, full of ups and downs. He has written it all in his upcoming autobiography called Yatra Jingadima covers his childhood, the military attack he led during the Maoist war, his entry into mainstream politics and his experiences as the vice president for two terms.
Pun’s close associates who were close to him during the war are Barsha Man Pun, Jarnadan Sharma and Chakrapani Khanal. Unlike his close aides, Pun was bounded to a ceremonial post while the rest are actively involved in party politics.
Following the end of their term, the first president Ram Baran Yadav and the first vice president Paramananda Jha did not return to active politics. They often participate in social work.
The constitution of Nepal provides that the president and vice president cannot be elected for more than two terms. According to that, Pun cannot become the vice president again, but the option of becoming the president is open to him.
His family members say he is the right person to become the president too as he has the right character and experience.
“This tenure has been without any controversy. He’s the perfect one,” said his family member.
Pun had aspired to be the president, but the Maoist Centre agreed to make UML’s Bidya Devi Bhandari the president. Even though the Maoists are leading the government, it is unlikely that it will push its candidate for the position.
But if the Maoists do nominate a candidate, Pun will be on top of the list despite Baburam Bhattarai also aspiring to become the president.
While there is an argument going on among the Maoists that it is not appropriate for a person who has been the prime minister to claim the presidency, it will be difficult for the leadership to reject Pun if he wants to become the president.
The UML has claimed the president to be from the party given it has given Pushpa Kamal Dahal the chance to become the prime minister. But now, with the Nepali Congress also giving Dahal the vote of confidence, there is a feeling among the Maoist Centre that the person who is made president should be accepted by everyone in the country.
A member of Pun’s private secretariat says that the retiring vice president will not be involved in active politics.
“He is thinking about what to do next. He will not return to active politics. It means involvement in a different kind of social service,” he says.
This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.