From Calcutta to Nepal helm - Doctor who studied in India elected first President

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By J. HEMANTH in Kathmandu
  • Published 21.07.08

Kathmandu, July 21: A doctor who graduated from Calcutta Medical College nearly four decades ago was today elected Nepal’s first-ever President, abruptly ending Maoist ambitions of forming the first government in the new republic.

Sixty-one-year old Ram Baran Yadav comfortably defeated the Maoist candidate, Ram Raja Prasad Singh, with a margin of 26 votes in the second round of polling held in the Constituent Assembly.

Yadav won 308 out of the 590 votes cast by the Assembly.

The second round was ordered after both Madhesi nominees failed to get a simple majority in Saturday’s presidential polls.

It was the first major vote in the Assembly since lawmakers decided to abolish the 239-year-old monarchy and declare a republic, part of a peace process that ended a decade-long civil war with Maoist insurgents.

In some ways, the new President may also help stabilise Nepal. An ethnic Madheshi from the country’s lowlands, Yadav’s election may help unite a country torn for decades between its highland Himalayan inhabitants and the people of the plains.

Yadav, who will be sworn in tomorrow, will replace the deposed monarch Gyanendra as the head of state.

Coming from a farming family from Dhanusha district in southeastern Nepal close to the Indian border, Yadav received his MBBS degree from Calcutta Medical College 36 years ago. He then completed his postgraduation from the School of Tropical Medicine and, later, returned to Nepal to practise medicine.

He joined the Nepali Congress in 1980 and soon gained the confidence of the Koirala family with his sincerity and commitment to the cause of democracy. Yadav was also the personal physician of party patriach, Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala. The President-elect was jailed for three months during the 1990 movement which led to multi-party democracy in Nepal.

He later served as health minister for two terms in the Nepali Congress government led by Girija Prasad Koirala and earned praise for establishing a health care system in remote areas of Nepal.

After being elected, Yadav told reporters that he would focus on core issues like the new Constitution and restructuring the state. “Individuals do not matter. The state is important and I will work closely with the new government to take Nepal to newer heights”, he said.

The election of Yadav is a big blow to Maoist dreams of heading the next government. The former rebels, who waged a 11-year-old war to scrap the monarchy, had been hoping to form the government on basis of their strong performance in April’s Constituent Assembly elections.

However, with the Nepali Congress having put together an unlikely alliance with the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and Madhesi parties last weekend, the Maoists announced that they would not form the next government if their candidate was defeated in the presidential polls.

However, Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara said no decision had been taken about the next move. Analysts said there was a split within the Maoists over whether to form a government.