Kathmandu, April 17: The government's decision to announce two-day public holiday on the occasion of President Bidya Bhandari's state visit to India has invited criticism from various quarters.
Social media platforms were flooded with criticism immediately after a cabinet meeting announced public holidays on Monday and Friday, endorsing a proposal of the Home Ministry.
Bhandari is leaving India for a five-day state visit on Monday, and is scheduled to return to Kathmandu on Friday.
“Public holiday for tomorrow [Monday] is against the spirit of a modern society, working people and economic prosperity. Another mistake instead of correcting past mistakes,” tweeted former finance minister and ruling Nepali Congress (NC) leader Ram Saran Mahat.
Main opposition CPN-UML leaders and cadres were rather blunt. “Time has changed; and, it's not holiday that honors. Such kind of holiday is never justifiable,” tweeted UML leader Rabindra Adhikari.
Former Prime Minister and Naya Shakti Party coordinator Baburam Bhattarai termed the decision “farce”. “It would have been better had the government focused on homework for the visit. This seems lacking?” Bhattarai questioned in a tweet.
The general public too took to social media to denounce the government's move. “Nepal's President (1st Female) is going to an official visit to India & govt declared a public holiday, keeping the Monarchical tradition!?” tweeted Subas Pokhrel.
Shristi Mainali tweeted: “Public holiday on President's visit to India? Could our government be more annoying?”
Sunil Paudel questiond: “Why the government forcefully announced the holidays even if the President Bhandari requesting not to do so?”
Holiday 'against' president's will
The Office of the President has said the government's decision to announce two-day public holiday during President Bidya Bhandari's state visit to India is “against her will”.
“It is the government's decision. The president is not responsible for the decision,” said President Bhandari's political advisor Sushil Pyakurel.
According to a highly-placed source at the Office of the President, Bhandari had urged the Foreign Affairs Minister Prakash Saran Mahat and Foreign Secretary Shankar Bairagi not to announce any public holiday on the occasion of her visit to India. The source claimed the president was surprised upon hearing the government's decision.
“The cabinet decided to announce public holiday giving continuity to the tradition,” said Minister for Science and Technology Prem Bahadur Singh.
Nepal's first president Ram Baran Yadav had broken the tradition of announcing public holidays during state visits of heads of state, which were common during the monarchy.
Sources close to the Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal claimed the decision was taken bearing in mind previous decision of the government to announce public holiday during state visit of the Indian president.
However, sources at the president's office claimed Bhandari had insisted on not announcing public holiday during the state visit of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee around five months ago. “She had suggested the government announce holiday only in Kathmandu during the visits of heads of state of neighboring countries,” said the source.