Bidya Devi Bhandari is a Nepali politician. In 2015, she hit the headlines when she was chosen as the second president of Nepal. Upon this, she became the first woman to hold the president’s office in Nepal. Prior to this, she served as the minister of defence and minister of environment and population, the vice-chairperson of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist), and the chairman of the All Nepal Women’s Association. Bidya Devi Bhandari served as the Minister of Defence of Nepal from 2009 to 2011. She served as the Minister of Environment and Population in 1997.
Bidya Devi Bhandari was born Bidya Pandey on Tuesday, 19 June 1961 (age 61 years; as of 2022) in Mane Bhanjyang, Bhojpur, Kingdom of Nepal (present-day Mane Bhanjyang, Ramprasadrai R.M., Bhojpur, Province No. 1, Republic of Nepal). Her zodiac sign is Gemini. She completed her primary school education at Behereshwar Primary School, Nepal. In 1979, she earned her SLC (School Leaving Certificate) at Bidhyodaya Vocational High School, Nepal. In 1980, she completed a bachelor’s in arts degree in Humanities at Tribhuvan University, Nepal. According to Bidya Devi Bhandari, she was the first person in her family who completed matriculation. In a media conversation, she revealed that her grandfather encouraged her parents to educate her. She said,
I happened to be a role model for the women in my village and it prompted other parents to send their daughters to school.”
Reportedly, her grandfather and uncles began teaching her political skills when she was seven years old. Her grandfather and uncles were associated with the Nepal Student’s Union and the ANNFSU as its members. Once, in a conversation with a media house, she recalled that she used to feel very bad for poor people when she was a child and often wished to eradicate this inequality from the country. She told,
I felt very bad when I saw some people begging for money, medicine or some old dresses to wear. I wondered why they were so poor and what was the cause of this inequality.”
Bidya Devi Bhandari joined the Coordination Committee (founded in 1975) when she was studying in eighth grade. Soon after joining this committee, she was given the responsibility by the head of the committee to distribute the party pamphlets in villages to warn the local landlords.
Height (approx.): 5′ 4″
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Bidya Devi’s grandfather’s name is Tilak Bahadur Pandey. Her grandfather was a social worker as well as a Pradhan Pancha of his village. Her father’s name is Ram Bahadur Pandey, and he was the headmaster at a local high school in Nepal. Her mother’s name is Mithila Pandey. She has two brothers, and the name of one of her brothers is Degendra Pandey.
Bidya Devi Bhandari with her brother
Her cousin, Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, is a noted Nepali politician.
Bidya Devi Bhandari’s cousin Gyanendra Bahadur Karki
Husband & Children
In 1982, Bidya Devi Bhandari got married to Madan Bhandari who was a noted Nepali politician. Bidya Devi and Madan Bhandari met with each other two times before getting married to each other, once, in 1979 and again in 1980 in Bhojpur, while they were attending political party meetings.
An old picture of Bidya Devi Bhandari with her husband
Madan Bhandari passed away on 16 May 1993 in a car accident when he was on his way from Pokhran to Chitwan along with his three companions to attend a party meeting. According to some media sources, his car plunged into the Trishuli river mysteriously and all the passengers in the car died; however, the driver (Amar Lama) of the car managed to save himself. Three days after the accident, Madan Bhandari’s body was recovered by the police on the bank of the Narayani river. After ten years of the accident, the driver was murdered under mysterious circumstances. This incident mushroomed conspiracy theories in Nepal at that time.
A statute of Madan Bhandari in Nepal
Once, in an interview with a media house, Bidya Devi Bhandari disclosed that Madan Bhandari’s personality, political ideologies, and leadership qualities impressed her so much that it persuaded her to marry him. She further added in the same discussion that it was not a love-at-first-sight thing. She told,
It was not a love-at-first-sight kind of thing. I was nervous to be in front of him. His sharpness and his ability to present various issues with depth touched me. I was sure that he was a man with a difference but I did not know that he would one day acquire the position of general secretary of the CPN (UML).”
Bidya Devi Bhandari with her husband and two daughters
The couple has two daughters named Usha Kiran Bhandari and Nisha Kusum Bhandari. According to some media sources, one of her daughters is a medical practitioner and the other one works as a party worker for the Nepal political party CPN (UML).
President Bidya Devi Bhandari talks to her daughters as she returns from a temple in Kathmandu Valley, on the day of Maha Ashtami in 2016
Bidya Devi Bhandari belongs to the Brahmin community.
Bidya Devi Bhandari joined politics in 1978 when she started working as an activist in the Youth League of CPN (ML) in Bhojpur. In 1979, she started working at the Eastern Zone Committee of ANNFSU as its in charge and served in the position till 1987.
Bidya Devi Bhandari while being appointed to a ministerial post in Nepal
Bidya Devi Bhandari started working as a member of the CPN (ML) in 1980. She was chosen as the student union leader when she was studying at Mahendra Morang Adarsha Multiple Campus. She began working at the women’s wing of GEFONT as its chairperson in 1993. In 1997, she began working as a central committee member of the CPN (UML). Soon after the death of her husband, Bidya Devi Bhandari was appointed as a sitting member of the Kathmandu–1 constituency in a by-election in January 1994, and in these elections, she defeated her opponent and former Prime Minister of Nepal Krishna Prasad Bhattarai. During the Kathmandu–2 constituency general elections in the same year, she defeated her opponent and the house speaker Daman Nath Dhungana. Thereafter, Bidya Devi Bhandari was appointed as the Minister for the Environment and Population of Nepal.
Bidya Devi Bhandari during a political rally
Bidya Devi Bhandari again contested the general elections from the Kathmandu–2 constituency in 1999 and won. She contested the Constituent Assembly elections in 2008 and lost. However, after following a proportional electoral system by her party members, she was appointed as the Minister of Defence in the cabinet ministry of Nepali Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal. The same procedure was followed during the 2013 elections when she was re-elected by following a proportional electoral system. Bidya Devi Bhandari was then re-elected as vice-chairperson of the CPN (UML) in the eighth general convention of the party organised in Butwal. She came into the limelight during this time as a confidante of her party chairman and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
Bidya Devi Bhandari at her office
Bidya Devi Bhandari was chosen as the president of Nepal by an indirect election, which was held in the parliament of Nepal on 28 October 2015. She won the elections after defeating Nepali Congress leader Kul Bahadur Gurung, who received 214 votes whereas Bidya Bhandari received 327 votes. She became the first female to head the state as its president. In 2018, Bidya Devi Bhandari was again appointed as the president of Nepal, and during these elections, she defeated her rival and Congress leader Kumari Laxmi Rai.
The Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi along with the BIMSTEC leaders calls on the President of Nepal, Ms Bidya Devi Bhandari, in Kathmandu, Nepal on 30 August 2018
- Political Partisan Stance: Several opposition party members in Nepal frequently blame Bidya Devi Bhandari for misusing her position since she was chosen as the president of Nepal. She was accused in 2017 of delaying the formation of the government soon after the completion of the 2017 legislative elections. She was blamed for holding onto the National Assembly election ordinance.
- Women’s Rights: Bidya Devi Bhandari submitted a controversial ‘property bill’ to Nepal Parliament in 2016, and earned the support of many women Members Parliament of Nepal. Through this bill, she fought for the rights of women to acquire their parental property. In the bill, she stated,
Through this bill, women for the first time in Nepali history got a right to succeed in their parental property and a right to issue a child’s citizenship with the name of a mother.”
- In 2021, the Supreme Court of Nepal rejected an ordinance for citizenship, which was brought by the KP Sharma Oli-led government. However, this ordinance was approved by Bidya Devi Bhandari. Later, she denied approving the same ordinance when the majority and Deuba cabinet approved it.
- Dissolving the Parliament Houses: In 2021, Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the House of Representatives against the Constitution of Nepal. Consequently, she was blamed for misusing her position by approving the decisions of the cabinet. Sher Bahadur Deuba received a majority of votes from the member parliaments who signed collectively to him as Prime Minister of Nepal; however, Bidya Bhandari disapproved to appoint him as the Prime Minister of Nepal and began supporting the KP Sharma Oli-led government by dissolving the parliament. Later, a majority of 146 member Parliaments challenged her decision at the Supreme Court of Nepal.
President Bidya Bhandari talking to the media in 2018 after registering her candidacy for a second term
- On 12 July 2021, her decision to dissolve the parliament was cited as unlawful by the Supreme court of Nepal, and it also stated in its verdict that under article 76(5) of the Constitution of Nepal, Deuba would be appointed as the next Prime Minister of Nepal. The Supreme Court also accused Bhandari of taking steps against the constitution of Nepal. On 13 July 2021, Bidya Devi Bhandari appointed Deuba as the Prime Minister of Nepal. Reportedly, she did not follow any court rules or constitutional articles while appointing Deuba as the Prime Minister of Nepal, and she was accused by many opposition party leaders of forgetting her limits. Eventually, Deuba became the Prime Minister of Nepal after a few pauses.
Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in 2021
- In 2016, the renowned global magazine ranked Bidya Devi Bhandari at number 52 in the list of the world’s 100 most powerful women.
- Bidya Bhandari met a Danish economist and environmentalist, Inger Andersen in June 2017 at the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Gland, Switzerland where she discussed the issues related to nature conservation and sustainable development in Nepal and had some collaborations on it.
Bidya Devi with director general Inger Andersen
- Bidya Bhandari is an enthusiastic environmentalist who often organises many environmental awareness campaigns in Nepal. She frequently works for women’s rights issues in Nepal.
- Reportedly, Bidya Devi Bhandari’s political master is UML leader KP Oli, who taught her political skills when she ventured into politics. KP Oli is best known for being the strongest Prime Minister of Nepal during his tenure. According to Bidya Devi Bhandari, she was advised by KP Oli in every political matter. He was the one who helped her in appointing her the Defence Minister of Nepal in the Madhav Nepal government in 2009, and President in 2015.
Bidya Devi Bhandari with KP Oli during a cabinet meeting