Buddha’s `descendant’ stakes claim to Nepal PM’s post

July 22nd, 2008 - 5:12 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, July 22 (IANS) After a Nepali of Indian origin representing a community that ranked at the bottom of Nepal’s social ladder became the first president of the country, the federal republic can see another astounding change in its social landscape if a debutant but powerful ethnic party manages to wrest the post of prime minister. Bijay Kumar Gachchhedar, chief of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum parliamentary party, is laying stake to the executive post, saying his party has the support of two other major parties, whose alliance Monday succeeded in defeating the Maoists in the nation’s historic first presidential election.

If Gachchhedar has his way, he will become the first prime minister from the Tharu community, a group that was among the first inhabitants of Nepal but were displaced by migrants from India and Nepal’s hills from the fertile Terai plains along the Indo-Nepal border.

In the course of time the Tharus, who were the descendants of royal families, including the one in which Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, belonged, became landless paupers and were forced to become bonded slaves by the new migrants.

Gachchhedar, 56, is a force to reckon with in Nepal’s politics.

He is one of the five politicians in the country who never lost an election.

He has won three parliamentary elections as well as the constituent assembly poll in April, in which he won from both his constituencies, humbling Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s nephew Shekhar Koirala.

Born in Pachira village in Sunsari district on the Indo-Nepal border, Gachchhedar has been minister five times, starting as a minister of state for information and communications. He has also been in charge of water resources and culture, tourism and civil aviation.

Gachcchedar joined politics as a student and rose steadily in the prime minister’s Nepali Congress party.

However, in 2002, following infighting in the party, he quit along with then prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to form the Nepali Congress (Democratic).

Though the two factions united before the April election, Gachchhedar quit the unified party and joined the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum.

His departure cost Koirala dear, causing the NC to fare badly in the plains and win only 113 votes in the 601-member assembly.

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