The gentleman of Nepal's politics is gone

Subhas Chandra Nembang perfected moderate politics and his credo of consensus, cooperation, and communication extended beyond politics


In April 2011, Himal Khabar published a list of 51 bills and 10 treaties and agreements registered in the Parliament Secretariat, questioning the effectiveness of the Speaker in Parliament. The Speaker was Subhas Chandra Nembang. 

The report concluded that the Constituent Assembly and the Legislative Parliament were not constructive as Speaker Nembang had not been able to hold CA members accountable for their wrongdoings. 

Nembang, to whom the magazine reached out routinely for comment, did not refute the report, or even address it in public.  

In his 42-year-long political career, Subhas Chandra Nembang was known for his politics of consensus, cooperation, and communication. His personal philosophy of tolerance and accommodation extended not only to politics but also to the media. 

The UML vice-chair and former Speaker of the House passed away early Tuesday morning due to a heart attack at his Baluwatar residence. He was 71. 

In an interview about state restructuring, Nembang said in 2009, “It is wisest to analyse Nepal’s circumstances objectively and protect our achievements. Those who are uncompromising in their positions may soon find themselves having missed the forest for the trees.” 

Many were critical of Nembang’s moderate politics. But over time, his analyses of Nepal’s politics would mostly come to be on the mark.  

Nembang had the ability to present disagreeable topics in a dignified manner, something that has become uncommon in Nepal’s political leadership. It would not be wrong to call him a gentleman of Nepal's politics.  

He was among a rare breed of Nepali politicians who understood the dynamics between politics and the press, expressing his respect towards media freedom even when journalists were critical of him.  

When called on the phone for a quote, he would respond with, “It is much better to speak in person.”  

2015 constitution promulgation

Over the years, during meetings at his office in the Parliament building in Baneswor, the Speaker’s residence in Baluwatar, Singha Darbar, the UML party office in Balkhu or his Pioneer Law Associates, the gist of his conversation would always be the same: “Himal, Pahad, Tarai need to unite. There is no alternative to consensus.” 

Nembang was a shrewd communicator, often telling media personnel during conversations: “Quote me on this, and attribute the rest to ‘sources’”. 

Nembang was born in 1953 in Ilam’s Suntalabari village. He was politically active in the UML since his student days in 1971 at the Ilam Multipurpose Campus when he was elected chairman of the All Nepal National Free Students Union. 

Nembang, whose father was a district judge, followed his footsteps into law. As a lawyer, he was general secretary of the Nepal Bar Association in 1987. He was also a faculty at the Kathmandu Law Campus. 

He was first elected to parliament from Ilam’s second constituency in 1991, and a second time in 1999. He also served as the Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs in communist Prime Minister Manmohan Adhikari’s government. 

Nembang served as the Speaker of the House in 2006 and as chair of the Constituent Assembly in both 2008 and 2014. He was also the Speaker in 2015. With his constitutional and legal background, he is also credited with contributing significantly to the promulgation of Nepal’s 2015 Constitution. He became the UML vice-chair in 2018.

In November 2022, he was once again elected to parliament from Ilam’s second constituency. He was subsequently the UML nominee for Nepal’s President but lost to coalition presidential candidate Ram Chandra Paudel during the presidential election in March. 

During his four decades in politics, Nembang cultivated an image of an easy-going, approachable leader, and was seen as a non-confrontational politician who often took the initiative to resolve deadlocks in disputes within the UML, while also crossing ideological lines to mediate among Nepal’s feuding political parties. 

In an age of cynical, kleptocratic and regressive politics, Nepal will miss Nembang’s gentle ways.